London: There have been 236 drone strikes in Pakistan – one every four days- during US President Barack Obama’s tenure, according to an extensive new research published by the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
The Bureau’s fundamental reassessment of the covert US campaign reveals that CIA drone strikes have led to far more deaths in Pakistan than previously understood.
“More than 160 children are among at least 2,292 people reported killed in US attacks since 2004. There are credible reports of at least 385 civilians among the dead,” the Bureau said, noting that under president George W Bush, one in three of all attacks is reported to have killed a child.
“In a surprise move, a counter-terrorism official has also released US government estimates of the numbers killed. These state that an estimated 2,050 people have been killed in drone strikes – of whom all but an estimated 50 are combatants,” it added.
The report said that the minimum number of reported deaths is far higher than previously believed – with 40% more recorded casualties, and that most of those killed are likely to be low-ranking militants.
For the first time the Bureau has compiled accurate details of recorded injuries in drone strikes, revealing that at least 1,114 people have been wounded.
In the wake of the Bureau’s findings, Amnesty International has called for more transparency by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
“The Obama administration must explain the legal basis for drone strikes in Pakistan to avoid the perception that it acts with impunity. The Pakistan government must also ensure accountability for indiscriminate killing, in violation of international law, that occurs inside Pakistan,’ said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty’s director of Asia Pacific.
However, US intelligence officials are understood to be briefing against the Bureau’s work, claiming ‘significant problems with its numbers and methodologies’.
Iain Overton, the Bureau’s editor said: “It comes as no surprise that the US intelligence services would attack our findings in this way. But to claim our methodology is problematic before we had even published reveals how they really operate. A revelation that is reinforced by the fact that they cannot bring themselves to refer to non-combatants as what they really are: civilians and, all too often, children.”