US military
The US military said authorities were investigating to determine if there were any still-undetected civilian casualties - file photo Getty

The United States military on Wednesday (1 February) said that it was unclear how many civilians were killed in an air strike on al Qaeda target in Yemen over the weekend and authorities were investigating to "determine if there were any still-undetected civilian casualties in the ferocious firefight."

In a statement US Central Command said that a team probing the issue "has concluded regrettably that civilian non-combatants were likely killed in the midst of a firefight during a raid in Yemen January 29. Casualties may include children."

Although Pentagon claimed the raid in al-Bayda province killed 14 members of the militant group al-Qaeda in Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), Medics on the scene said that at least 30 people died out of which 10 were women and children.

Local sources also said that an 8-year-old American girl named Nawar al-Awlaki was also killed in the attack. She is the daughter of a senior al-Qaeda cleric and US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, who was killed in 2011 in a drone strike.

Meanwhile, three military officials told Reuters that the attacking SEAL team faced hostile conditions as President Trump approved his first covert counter terrorism operation without enough intelligence, back up preparation and ground support.

The SEAL team landed on an al-Qaeda base rigged with landmines, snipers and a much bigger group of heavily armed jihadists than expected, the report said.

The authorities in the military who spoke to the news agency on condition of anonymity said that a "brutal fire fight" caused the death of Chief Petty Officer William Ryan Owens and 15 Yemeni children and women. It also wounded three other commandos while a $75m aircraft had to be destroyed.

According to New York Times, former president Barack Obama's national security aides had reviewed plans for an attack the brick home of a senior al-Qaeda leader in Central Yemen, but Obama reportedly did not act on the information because the Pentagon had planned to launch the attack on a moonless night while the second attack would come after his tenure had ended.

One of the three officials told Reuters, "The decision was made ... to leave it to the incoming administration, partly in the hope that more and better intelligence could be collected."

On Wednesday, Trump visited the Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to meet Owens' family.