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White House Defends Yemen Raid Following Criticism from Fallen Commando's Father

  • VOA News

FILE - President Donald Trump arrives aboard the Marine One to greet the remains of a U.S. military commando killed during a raid on the al-Qaida militant group in southern Yemen, at Dover Air Force Base, Dover, Delaware, Feb. 1, 2017.

The White House has continued to defend a recent anti-terrorism raid in Yemen that killed one Navy SEAL, after the father of the commando sharply criticized the administration over the mission.

White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the raid was "successful in helping prevent a future attack." He said he cannot imagine what Bill Owens is going through following the loss of his son, William "Ryan" Owens.

Spicer said the younger Owens died a hero and that the mission he participated in is "going to protect our country more." He said the mission led to the collection of "a lot of information that will help us keep safe."

Bill Owens told The Miami Herald, in a story published Sunday, that he wants an investigation into the planning of the mission. He also said he refused to meet President Donald Trump when they were both at Dover Air Force Base to receive the casket carrying his son.

"I told them I didn't want to make a scene about it, but my conscience wouldn't let me talk to him," Owens said of the president.

WATCH: Spicer Defends Raid that Led to SEAL’s Death

Spicer said it is standard operating procedure for the Defense Department to undergo a review of such a mission. He said in this case, the review is three-pronged because there was a fatality during the operation, there were civilians involved, and a U.S. helicopter was damaged.

The Navy SEAL died in late January during a raid on a suspected al-Qaida compound in Yemen. The Pentagon said approximately 14 militants died during the raid, which was aimed at capturing information about potential al-Qaida terrorist attacks on the United States and allies. The Defense Department has acknowledged that several civilians, including some children, were also killed in the attack, after initially denying there were civilian causalities.

Republican Senator John McCain called the operation a failure. The White House, however, has called it was a success and said its detractors are dishonoring Owens' memory.

"Don't hide behind my son's death to prevent an investigation," Bill Owens told the Herald. "I want an investigation. ... The government owes my son an investigation."

The elder Owens questioned the timing of the mission so early into the new Trump administration.

"Why at this time did there have to be this stupid mission when it wasn't even barely a week into his administration? Why?" Owens told The Herald. "For two years prior, there were no boots on the ground in Yemen — everything was missiles and drones — because there was not a target worth one American life. Now all of a sudden we had to make this grand display?"

The White House said that while Trump authorized the raid, it had been planned under the Obama administration.

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