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

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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.

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