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Yemeni families of drone strike victims file lawsuit against U.S.

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The families of two Yemeni men who died in an airstrike filed a lawsuit against the United States late Sunday for allegedly "violating the laws of war and norms of customary international law."

Salem bin Ali Jaber, a 43-year-old imam, and his nephew Waleed bin Ali Jaber, a 26-year-old police officer, were innocent victims in a U.S. drone strike on Aug. 29, 2012, in the village of Khashamir, according to the complaint.

The lawsuit identifies U.S. President Barack Obama, former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and former CIA Director David Petraeus as defendants.

U.S. armed forces have been conducting anti-terrorism campaigns in Yemen with the support of the country's President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who confirmed, in a letter obtained by Yahoo News, that the men were "mistakenly killed in an airstrike."

The New York Times, who first reported on the lawsuit, said the complainants want public accountability for mistakes made in the U.S. drone program and for federal court to declare the strikes unlawful. 

The lawsuit reportedly cites Obama's disclosure that a different strike against an al-Qaida compound in Pakistan in January had mistakenly killed two Western hostages: an American, Warren Weinstein, and an Italian, Giovanni Lo Porto.

"As president and as commander in chief, I take full responsibility for all our counterterrorism operations, including the one that inadvertently took the lives of Warren and Giovanni," Obama said in a statement.

"I profoundly regret what happened. On behalf of the United States government, I offer our deepest apologies to the families."

Last November, Faisal bin Ali Jaber, Salem bin Ali Jaber's brother-in-law, told Michael Isikoff, chief investigative correspondent for Yahoo News, that Salem had been speaking out against al-Qaida at the time of his death.

It appears that Salem had gone to confront three suspected al-Qaida terrorists, bringing his nephew along for protection, when the strike occurred.

Faisal bin Ali Jaber says the CIA paid his family "solatia," also called condolence payments, in the wake of the strikes.

In November 2013, he met with two White House aides at a coffee shop in Washington, D.C.

Later, in July 2014, Jaber was invited to meet the head of legal affairs at Yemen's National Security Bureau, which works closely with the CIA, and was given a bag of money.

“In the bag was $100,000," Jaber said to Isikoff via Skype. "$50,000 per victim. The money was almost brand-new and sequenced so that the serial numbers of the money were sequential. It seemed freshly printed."

That money is being used to support the deceased men's families.

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