Unmanned aerial missions: Leaked document says govt was aware of civilian deaths

CIA drone strikes killed 746 people between 2006 and 2009.

July 24, 2013


A leaked government document has shown that Pakistani authorities were aware of the scores of civilians killed in CIA drone strikes carried out between 2006 and late 2009.

The 12-page summary paper titled Details of Attacks by Nato Forces/Predators in FATA, a copy of which was obtained by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, outlines the number of casualties in 75 drone attacks carried out by the CIA between 2006 and late 2009.

Five attacks alleged to be carried out by Nato or other unspecified forces were also listed.

Based on the reports from field officers across Fata, the report states that out of the total 746 people listed as killed in the separate drone strikes, 147 were civilians, 94 out of which were children below the age of 18.

The numbers quoted by the report are much higher than those given out by the US administration. The US administration claims that no more than 50 to 60 non-combatants have been killed in the drone strikes over the years in the fight against terrorism.

Despite the government’s stance on putting an end to drones, the report reveals that Pakistan military had ‘privately supported’ drones, adding that the officials in the military had extensive knowledge of the casualties caused in these strikes.

Conflicting accounts

Contents of the report reveal numbers higher than both the reports released by the UN special rapporteur Ben Emmerson QC in March and the figures obtained from the leaked US intelligence documents.

The highly classified government document gives details of a number of incidents which were reported by the media but the numbers of casualties cited were less than the actual number of civilian deaths.

The report mentions a US drone strike in the village of Damadola in January 2006 where the number of people killed were said to be between 10-18 civilians. The report, however, reveals that five children, the same number of women and six men were killed in the airstrike.

On four other occasions, tribal officials privately reported civilian deaths where the media had reported none.

In a separate incident in October 2006, tribal leaders reported to Islamabad that around 80 children were killed in a drone strike on a religious school in Bajaur Agency.

The media widely reported that ‘many children had been killed’ but officials largely snubbed the reports stating that the number of children killed were ‘highly exaggerated’.

Missing links

The government document does not give out names of any of the people killed in the drones. Names of high-profiles targets have also not been mentioned in the lists.

Reports on civilian deaths are also missing on most of the strikes during 2009, the year the US president resumed office.

Foreign office statement

Reacting to the report of London Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Pakistan has said it has been saying all along that US drone strikes kill civilians and are counter-productive.

“I would say Pakistan’s position on drone strikes has been clearly enunciated by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and our senior officials. Drone strikes violate our sovereignty and international law. They cause civilian causalities and have human rights and humanitarian implications. We therefore believe they are counter-productive,” said foreign ministry spokesperson Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry while talking to The Express Tribune.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2013.