ISI chief tells US to stop drone strikes

ISI chief tells US to stop drone strikes Washington: Taking a tough stance on continued drone strikes in its tribal areas, Pakistan has asked the US to stop the unmanned spy planes used by the CIA to target terrorists inside the country.

The official demand to discontinue the drone strikes was conveyed by ISI chief Lt-Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha to acting CIA Director Michael J Morel earlier this month during former's day-long visit here to mend the strained ties between the two countries, the Dawn newspaper reported today.

Pakistan had publicly protested the strikes but had never officially asked the US to discontinue them, although Pakistani leaders often complained that drones were killing too many innocent civilians, causing anger among people.

Pasha told Morell that the raids had become a major source of embarrassment for the Pakistani government as it was blamed for failing to stop a foreign power from killing its own citizens, the paper quoted diplomatic sources as saying.

Since June 18, 2004, when the CIA began the drone strikes, the unmanned aircraft had killed more than 2,500 people, including top al Qaeda and Taliban leaders. The US spy agency has conducted almost 250 strikes since 2004.

Those killed include al Qaeda's No. 3 Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, his predecessor Abu Hamza Rabia, Abu Laith al-Libi, Rashid Rauf, Abu Zubair al-Masri and Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud.

The strikes have jumped from fewer than 50 in the Bush administration, to more than 200 since President Barack Obama took office, the paper said.

The US government, however, rejects such claims as incorrect, insisting that drones are extraordinarily accurate. "There hasn't been a single collateral death" since last year, President Obama's chief counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan said recently.