Washington: The United States has disputed a recent research published by the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism that the CIA drone campaign has killed hundreds of civilians in Pakistan, including over 160 children.
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.
However, a senior US official said that the numbers cited by the organisation were “way off the mark”.
"We see the battlefield in real time; the Bureau of Investigative Journalism doesn't... This group's allegations about individual strikes are, in every case, divorced from the facts on the ground," the official told ABC News.
While the US agrees that around 2,000 suspected militants have been killed, the total civilian casualties are closer to 50, the official added.
One of the "loudest voices" in the report is that of a Pakistani lawyer who is currently involved in legal action with the US, the official said, adding: "His agenda is crystal clear."
While admitting that "nobody is arguing perfection" for the drone program, the US official said that the government’s casualty count is far more reliable than media reports.
"Our information is by far the most accurate because we have real-time eyes on the targets, as well as multiple other forms of collection to assess who may have been killed," the official said.
"This remains the most precise system we’ve ever had in our arsenal. US counter-terrorism operations have taken terrorist leaders, facilitators, instructors, and fighters off the battlefield," the official added.
First Published: Saturday, August 13, 2011, 12:44