US senator says 4,700 killed in drone strikes: Report

Published: February 21, 2013
A US spy drone. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

A US spy drone. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

WASHINGTON: Republican Senator Lindsay Graham has said an estimated 4,700 people, including some civilians, have been killed in bombing raids conducted under America’s secretive drone war, local media reported Wednesday.

The toll from hundreds of drone-launched missile strikes against suspected al Qaeda militants in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere has remained a mystery, as US officials refuse to publicly discuss any details of the covert campaign.

But Senator Graham, a staunch supporter of drones, openly cited a number that exceeds some independent estimates of the toll.

“We’ve killed 4,700,” Graham was quoted as saying by the Easley Patch, a local website covering the small town of Easley in South Carolina.

“Sometimes you hit innocent people, and I hate that, but we’re at war, and we’ve taken out some very senior members of al Qaeda,” Graham reportedly told the Easley Rotary Club.

Despite criticism from some lawmakers and rights advocates who have questioned the secrecy and the legality of the drone attacks, Graham defended President Barack Obama’s reliance on the unmanned, robotic aircraft.

“It’s a weapon that needs to be used,” Graham said. “It’s a tactical weapon. A drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle that is now armed.”

It was not clear if Graham was referring to the US government’s own estimate of casualties from drone strikes. His office was not immediately available for comment.

Using press reports and other sources, several organisations have tried to calculate how many militants and civilians may have been killed in the drone strikes, which have been expanded dramatically under Obama’s administration.

The Washington-based New America Foundation says there have been 350 US drone strikes since 2004, most of them during Obama’s presidency. And the foundation estimates the death toll at between 1,963 and 3,293, with 261 to 305 civilians killed.

According to the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, around 2,627 to 3,457 people have been reportedly killed by US drones in Pakistan since 2004, including around 475 to nearly 900 civilians.

The casualty estimates are related to covert strikes run by the CIA, and not drone bombing raids in Afghanistan which are under the US military’s authority and not cloaked in secrecy.

The Obama administration has insisted the “targeted killings” are “the last resort” against those plotting to attack the United States but who cannot be captured.

Opponents, however, say the drone strikes amount to extrajudicial assassinations that sow resentment among local populations and lack oversight by Congress or courts.

Obama acknowledged for the first time this month that Americans needed more than just his word to be assured he was not misusing his powers in waging a secret drone war overseas.

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Reader Comments (6)

  • Super Star
    Feb 21, 2013 - 4:40PM

    Some drones for the LeJ is needed Uncle Sam !


  • Stranger
    Feb 21, 2013 - 5:54PM

    A drone a day keeps terrorists away .


  • Fawad
    Feb 21, 2013 - 11:04PM

    I bet is more than 4500. Hiding the facts that most of them were innocent females and childs.


  • naeem khan Manhattan,Ks
    Feb 21, 2013 - 11:54PM

    ““Sometimes you hit innocent people, and I hate that, but we’re at war, and we’ve taken out some very senior members of al Qaeda,” Graham reportedly told the Easley Rotary Club. If it is a war then don’t be surprised when they kill Americans and NATO forces all over the world.I got a news for you Senator Graham, the more you kill innocent people, the more they hate you and there will be no end in sight, mark my words for it, world is shrinking and there will be no hiding even with your drones. By the way any one could enlighten me why a Nobel Peace Prize was given to Obama and for what reason, there is nothing peaceful about him.


  • numbersnumbers
    Feb 22, 2013 - 5:44AM

    And of course you can provide credible reference to support your comment that “most of them (killed by drones) were innocent women and childs”!!


  • khan 111
    Feb 22, 2013 - 3:26PM

    i have a question from all the readrer of the tribune, that how many terrorist killed durinddg the 9 years operation of Pakistan in against terror.????? And how top Al Qaeda leaders killed in the drone strikes. how many innocent civilions killed displaced by our own Army and how many became the victim of the drone???????


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