The U.S. military said Wednesday it is unsure how many civilians were killed during an intelligence raid in Yemen last weekend that claimed the life of one Navy SEAL and wounded three other service members.
Amid reports of as many as 30 civilians dying during a “ferocious” gunfight during the raid, the U.S. Central Command said it is investigating the number of civilians killed, in addition to at least 14 militants — at least three of whom were senior al-Qaeda members — the Pentagon reported killed by U.S. forces.
After an aircraft took a hard landing near the compound in Shawah, Yemen — which resulted in the death of Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens and injury of three others — Navy SEALS and other service members encountered armed militants firing on them when they entered the compound. In addition to returning fire and throwing hand grenades, the U.S. forces called in air support to fight off the attack.
“The known possible civilian casualties appear to have been potentially caught up in aerial gunfire that was called in to assist U.S. forces,” U.S. Central Command said in a statement.
After the raid, during which the military says U.S. service members retrieved the intelligence they were sent to collect, local reports said as many as 30 civilians had been killed during the raid, including an 8-year-old girl, Anwar al-Awlaki, the daughter of a U.S. citizen and al-Qaeda leader who was killed in a 2011 U.S. drone strike.
The raid of the compound was planned while former President Barack Obama was still in office, and is the first reported military action ordered by President Donald Trump. Owens is the first reported U.S. service member to die in combat since Trump took office.