News / Asia

Report: Pakistan Claims Many Civilian Deaths in US Drone Strikes

US officials say drone strikes weaken al-Qaida's threat in South Asia.
US officials say drone strikes weaken al-Qaida's threat in South Asia.
A British media outlet says a classified Pakistani government report shows U.S. drone strikes on militant targets in Pakistan have killed many more civilians than Washington has acknowledged.
A U.S. official rejected the document's claim, saying it lacks credibility.
The non-profit Bureau of Investigative Journalism said Tuesday it obtained the Pakistani report from anonymous sources and published the full version on its website.
The document lists U.S. drone strikes between 2006 and 2009 and shows at least 147 civilian deaths from the attacks, representing about one-fifth of total fatalities. It says most of the rest were militants.
A similar study issued this month by the New America Foundation said U.S. drones killed 191 civilians in the four-year period, from a total of 1,004 fatalities. The Washington-based public policy institute said the casualty figures were based on "credible" reports mostly from Western news agencies.
In a statement provided to VOA, the U.S. official said "the notion that the United States has undertaken operations in Pakistan that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of innocent Pakistanis is ludicrous."
The official said the Pakistani document listing drone casualties is not credible because it relies "in part on erroneous media reporting."
The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency has carried out hundreds of drone strikes on militants in Pakistani tribal regions since 2004, to stop them from attacking U.S. troops in neighboring Afghanistan.
U.S. officials have said the drone strikes killed only about 50 non-combatants.
Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas have long been inaccessible to independent media, making it difficult to verify the identities of drone casualties.
Pir Zubair Shah, a former New York Times journalist who reported from Pakistan, told VOA it also is hard for Islamabad to confirm the casualties of drone attacks on militant-controlled districts.
"The government itself has as many problems of accessibility as anybody else would have, like a journalist or a human rights worker, or anyone who wants to investigate anything in the tribal areas," he said. 
Shah, who is from the South Waziristan tribal region and now lives in New York, said independent access to government-controlled tribal territory is heavily restricted as well. He said Pakistani authorities block roads to prevent reporters from discovering civilian casualties caused by Pakistani military operations.
Shah said the Taliban imposes similar road restrictions to stop journalists from learning about militant training camps and its sheltering of al-Qaida terrorists from U.S. drones. 
"After a typical strike, the Taliban cordons off the area. They take [away] the dead bodies and make sure that if there is an important person [among them], that he is buried as soon as [possible], especially outsiders, foreigners like al-Qaida, Uzbeks and others," he said. 
Shah said the immersion of Taliban fighters into the daily life of tribal communities also has blurred the line between militants and civilians. 
He said fighters often recruit teenagers and share living compounds with family members not directly engaged in combat. 
“There are a lot of things in terms of definitions [and] the social structure of the tribal areas, which create confusion. These things have to be cleared [up] before we reach a conclusion on these subjects," he said. 
The Pakistani government had no immediate response to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism's report.

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Tony Arron from: UK
July 24, 2013 11:39 AM
US drone attacks are a clear violation of humanitarian law along with territorial violation, Pakistan should condemn on every International forum. US must stop this cruel act to save lives of innocent people.

by: sultan from: Islamabad
July 24, 2013 10:08 AM
Not Pakistan but it was also recognised by a US official Former US Deputy Ambassador to Pakistan Ms. Col. (Retd) Ann Wright, said that drones attacks were illegal and this weapon was used in Afghanistan, Yemen and Pakistan which had created backlash among their peoples.Drone attacks are counterproductive adding that Pakistan had suffered huge civilian and military losses in this war on terrorism.They are increasingly used in circumstances which violate the relevant rules of international law.

by: Will Simpson from: Arizona
July 24, 2013 10:04 AM
Our govt. is carrying out surgical strikes which are not just killing terrorists but many innocent women, children and elderly. It appalling really. I wonder what would have been the feeling inside our country had some other country been doing this to us. I'm ashamed to be an american. I wish President Obama and before that President Bush are tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

by: Skr from: (ldnm)
July 24, 2013 3:49 AM
Drones, i don’t know how effective they are against the militants but on ground any attack creates anger in the vicinity. The people on ground's anger create anti us thinking. Which means one drone is directly proportional to the anti us thinking in the area.
In Response

by: BABA from: islamabad
July 24, 2013 8:53 AM
Agree with the above comment. As drones are the violation of Pakistani sovereignty and Also the Violation of humanitarian and terorital law.

by: Tania from: KPK
July 24, 2013 3:03 AM
This is a height of technological treachery made by the global protector of the world US in the name of terrorism. Between 2006-2009, 75 attacks killed large number of innocent people including women and children. Very little volatile terrorist have been shot dead. It is absolutely massive killing of people in the name to protect the whole world.

by: Jennifer from: USA
July 24, 2013 2:06 AM
USA has always tried to abuse its status of global power by interfering into other state's matters. Pakistan is suffering from drone attacks since 2004, and Pakistan is not taking any strict action just to maintain stable relations with USA but USA should not manipulate this.. Now after the revelation of the report government of Pakistan should take some strong measure to stop USA from this activity, as this is the clear violation of human rights, their right to live and also breach to international state's law.

by: stethan from: Rio
July 24, 2013 1:26 AM
Recently a report on drone attacks revealed that US used phone signals to attack the targets. Unfortunately, united states with technologically sophistication, still unable to limit the collateral damages. Hundreds of innocent people have been killed in drone attacks. None of single US policy maker has any idea about intangible damages. The infrastructure destruction is beyond the imagination. United States is just violating international law and killing innocent people. Voices have been raised against illegal drone attacks by different non-governmental organizations. But none is bothering to here.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs