Yemen Civil War
6 February 2017: Women walk past graffiti painted on a wall in Sanaa denouncing strikes by US drones in Yemen Khaled Abdullah/Reuters

US President Donald Trump suggested that Defence Department generals were to blame for the death of a Navy SEAL during a raid in Yemen in January.

Trump said on Fox News on Tuesday (28 February) that the military operation was already in motion before he took office and that military leaders were insistent about moving ahead.

"This was something they wanted to do," the president said. "They came to me, they explained what they wanted to do, the generals, who are very respected, the most respected that we've had in many decades, I believe. And they lost Ryan."

Trump maintained that Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said the raid was "a very successful mission" that recovered "tremendous amounts of information". However, senior US officials rejected that the raid had yielded any significant intelligence, according to NBC News.

The president's remarks come on the heels of severe criticism from the father of Navy SEAL William "Ryan" Owens, who died in a firefight with militants during the operation. Three other US service members were wounded, and at least two dozen civilians were killed, including many children.

Owens' father, Bill Owens, has demanded an investigation into what he referred to as a "stupid mission". The elder Owens questioned the timing of the operation, just six days into Trump's administration, and the use of boots on the ground.

"For two years prior ... everything was missiles and drones [in Yemen] ... Now all of a sudden we had to make this grand display," Owens told the Miami Herald.

Trump offered his sympathies to Bill Owens, who also refused to meet the president when his son's body was brought home to the US. "I can understand people saying that," Trump said, according to The Washington Post. "I'd feel - you know, I'd feel, what's worse? There's nothing worse."

The president, however, did not take responsibility for Owens' death, despite being commander-in-chief. The White House has repeatedly claimed that the mission had been approved by the Obama administration, although this has been disputed by an Obama administration official.