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

WASHINGTON, June 8 (Xinhua) -- The families of two Yemeni men killed in a 2012 U.S. drone strike in Yemen have sued the United States in federal court in Washington, demanding that the U.S. government acknowledge the pair's "unlawful deaths."

Instead of seeking any monetary relief, the 43-page filing document said the families of Salem bin Ali Jaber and Waleed bin Ali Jaber attempted to break through the secrecy shrouding the U.S. drone war which has been conducted overseas since 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The lawsuit filed late Sunday also cited U.S. President Barack Obama's decision in April to publicly apologized for another U.S. drone strike which mistakenly killed two Western hostages held by the extremist group al-Qaida in Pakistan, an American and an Italian, and asked the Obama administration to treat the Yemeni families the same way.

"There is a simple question at the heart of this claim," said the filing. "The president has now admitted to killing innocent Americans and Italians with drones; why are the bereaved families of innocent Yemenis less entitled to the truth?"

The drone war, initiated in the wake of 9/11 terrorist attacks by former U.S. President George W. Bush, continues to be one of the Obama administration's trump cards.

According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ), a British non-profit, the Obama administration conducted its first drone strikes shortly after Obama began its presidency in 2009. Although there were reports of alleged "militants" killed, said the group, at least 14 civilians were also killed that day.

Since the U.S. government keeps almost all information relevant to its drone attacks classified, the number of civilian casualties was unknown to the public.

Despite the secrecy that shrouds the U.S. drone program, BIJ estimated, after confirming with local media, that in Pakistan alone, between 423 and 962 civilians, including 172 to 207 children, have been killed.

In an unprecedented move in April, Obama apologized publicly to families of Warren Weinstein, an American, and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian, two hostages killed in a January counterterrorism operation.

Calling the death of the two "painful," Obama said in his televised speech that he profoundly regret what happened, promising an investigation into the twin death of the hostages.

"One of the things that sets America apart from many other nations, one of the things that makes us exceptional is our willingness to confront squarely our imperfections and to learn from our mistakes."

However, six and half years into his presidency, Obama has never confronted with the administration's mistakes with an apology before, and a coalition of international human and civil rights groups in May demanded the Obama administration not discriminate against other alleged civilian victims of drone attacks.

"We write to urge your administration to adopt the same approach to all other U.S. counterterrorism strikes in which civilians have been injured or killed- regardless of their nationalities," said the coalition in an open letter.

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