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CIA drones now target suspected militants in Pakistan: Report

In a dramatic expansion of its drone strikes in Pakistan`s restive tribal region, the CIA has received secret permission to attack a wider range of targets, including suspected militants whose names are not known.



Washington: In a dramatic expansion of its
drone strikes in Pakistan`s restive tribal region, the CIA has
received secret permission to attack a wider range of targets,
including suspected militants whose names are not known.

The expanded authority, approved two years ago by the
Bush administration and continued by President Barack Obama,
permits the spy agency to rely on what officials describe as
"pattern of life" analysis, using evidence collected by
surveillance cameras on the unmanned aircraft and from other
sources about individuals and locations, the `Los Angeles
Times` reported.

The information then is used to target suspected
militants, even when their full identities are not known, the
paper quoted current and former counter-terrorism officials as
saying.

Previously, the CIA was restricted in most cases to
killing only individuals whose names were on an approved list.

The new rules have transformed the programme from a narrow
effort aimed at killing top Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders into
a large-scale campaign of air strikes in which few militants
are off-limits, as long as they are deemed to pose a threat to
the US, the officials said.v

Missile attacks using Predator and Reaper drones have
risen steeply since Obama took office. There were an estimated
53 drone strikes in 2009, up from just over 30 in Bush`s last
year, according to a website run by the New America Foundation
that tracks press reports of attacks in Pakistan. Through
early this month, there had been 34 more strikes this year, an
average of one every 3 1/2 days, the site said.

The 2010 attacks have killed from 143 to 247 people,
according to estimates collected by the site, but only seven
militants have been publicly identified. Among them are Al
Qaeda explosives expert Ghazwan Yemeni, Taliban commander
Mohammad Qari Zafar, Egyptian Canadian Al Qaeda leader Sheikh
Mansoor and Jordanian Taliban commander Mahmud Mahdi Zeidan.

Instead of just a few dozen attacks per year, the
drones now carry out multiple missile strikes each week
against safe houses, training camps and other hiding places
used by militants in the tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.

Of more than 500 people who US officials say have been
killed since the pace of drone strikes intensified, the vast
majority have been individuals whose names were unknown, or
about whom the agency had only fragmentary information.

The CIA was directed by the Bush administration to
begin using armed drones to track Osama bin Laden and other
senior Al Qaeda figures, as well as Taliban leaders who fled
to Pakistan`s tribal areas after the Sept. 11 attacks.

President Bush secretly decided in his last year in
office to expand the programme. Obama has continued and even
streamlined the process, so that CIA Director Leon Panetta can
sign off on many attacks without notifying the White House
beforehand, the paper quoted an official as saying.

PTI

From Zee News

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