168 Children Murdered By US Drones

August 12th, 2011 - by admin

Anti-War.com & The Bureau of Investigative Journalism – 2011-08-12 21:26:56

168 Children Murdered By US Drones

168 Children Murdered By US Drones
John Glaser / AntiWar.com

“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.”–
Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International

(August 11, 2011) — The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) last month began to publish their findings in a study of the US drone war in Pakistan [1]. The study found that much higher rates of civilian casualties had resulted from the US drone war than had been admitted by the government or than had been reported in the press.

As I blogged about at the time [2], just prior to the study’s publication, high level Obama administration officials actually dared to say publicly that the drone attacks had killed zero civilians. The substantiated findings of the study made foolish liars out of the Obama administration. To boot, there was also Noor Behram [3], who had been on the ground in Pakistan tallying the dead, estimating that “for every 10 to 15 people killed, maybe they get one militant.”

TBIJ has now come out with news that an estimated 168 innocent children have been killed in the strikes [4].

I’m waiting with bated breath for the public outcry in America, and the subsequent criminal investigation of those in the highest reaches of our government. And by that I mean the systematic [5] disregard for the [6] murder of “others” and total [7] impunity for the criminals in charge [8].


[1] their findings in a study of the U.S. drone war in Pakistan: http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/2011/08/10/most-complete-picture-yet-of-cia-drone-strikes/

[2] blogged about at the time: http://www.antiwar.com/blog/2011/07/19/lying-about-civilian-casualties-in-drone-war/

[3] Noor Behram: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jul/17/us-drone-strikes-pakistan-waziristan

[4] an estimated 168 innocent children have been killed in the strikes: http://www.channel4.com/news/study-reveals-168-child-deaths-in-pakistan-drone-war

[5] the systematic: http://www.antiwar.com/blog/2011/08/08/media-subservience-ignoring-the-crimes-of-america/

[6] disregard for the: http://www.antiwar.com/blog/2011/08/08/a-warrior-for-christ-a-warrior-for-our-country/

[7] murder of “others” and total: http://www.antiwar.com/blog/2011/08/11/holding-murderers-accountable-american-style/

[8] impunity for the criminals in charge: http://www.antiwar.com/blog/2011/07/27/prosecute-bush-and-obama-for-torture/

The Bureau’s Key Findings

*291 CIA attacks have taken place in Pakistan – 8% more than previously reported. Under President Obama alone there have been 236 strikes — one every four days.

*Between 2,292 and 2,863 people are reported to have died in the attacks — most of them militants

*The minimum number of reported deaths is far higher than previously believed — with 40% more recorded casualties. Most of those killed are likely to be low-ranking militants.

*126 named militants have so far been killed.

*The Bureau has collated credible news reports of 385-775 civilians being killed in the attacks.

*The Bureau has identified credible reports of 164 children killed in the drone strikes. Under President Bush, one in three of all attacks is reported to have killed a child.

* 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.

Drone War Exposed —
The Complete Picture of CIA Strikes in Pakistan

Chris Woods / The Bureau of Investigative Journalism

(August 10th, 2011) — CIA drone strikes have led to far more deaths in Pakistan than previously understood, according to extensive new research published by the Bureau. 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.

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.

The Bureau’s fundamental reassessment of the covert US campaign involved a complete re-examination of all that is known about each US drone strike.

The study is based on close analysis of credible materials: some 2,000 media reports; witness testimonies; field reports of NGOs and lawyers; secret US government cables; leaked intelligence documents, and relevant accounts by journalists, politicians and former intelligence officers.

The Bureau’s findings are published in a 22,000-word database which covers each individual strike in Pakistan in detail. A powerful search engine, an extensive timeline and searchable maps accompany the data.

The result is the clearest public understanding so far of the CIA’s covert drone war against the militants. Yet 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’.

Many More Strikes
The Bureau’s data reveals many more CIA attacks on alleged militant targets than previously reported. At least 291 US drone strikes are now known to have taken place since 2004.

The intended targets – militants in the tribal areas – appear to make up the majority of those killed. There are 126 named militants among the dead since 2004, though hundreds are unknown, low-ranking fighters. But as many as 168 children have also been reported killed among at least 385 civilians.

More than 1,100 people are also revealed to have been injured in the US drone attacks – the first time this number has been collated.

In the wake of the Bureau’s findings Amnesty International has called for more CIA transparency. ‘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 Amnesty’s Director of Asia Pacific Sam Zarifi.

Civilian Deaths
With the US military unable to operate overtly inside Pakistan, the Obama administration has come to rely heavily on CIA drone strikes to attack alleged militants in the country’s western tribal areas. To date, at least 236 drone attacks have been ordered in Obama’s name, the Bureau’s research shows.

At least 1,842 people have been reported killed in the Obama strikes, most of them militants.

Recently, Obama’s chief counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan stated that the president has ‘insisted’ that Pakistan drone strikes ‘do not put… innocent men, women and children in danger’. Yet at least 218 of those killed in drone attacks in Obama’s time in office may have been civilians.

Civilian casualties do seem to have declined in the past year. Yet the Bureau still found credible evidence of at least 45 civilians killed in some ten strikes in this time. The US continues to insist that it ‘can’t confirm any noncombatant casualties’ in the past year.

The most recently reported civilian fatality was on July 12. Abdul Jalil, a migrant worker home on leave from Dubai, was ‘collateral damage’ when the CIA attacked a car carrying eight alleged militants, the Bureau’s researchers in Waziristan report.

Internal US Figures
The US government’s own internal estimates of those killed in the drone strikes total about 2,050, the Bureau has learnt. All but 50 of these are militants, and that no ‘non-combatants’ have died in the past year, a US counter-terrorism official noted. The Bureau’s own minimum suggested casualty figure is 2,292.

Yet a US counter-terrorism official told the Bureau that its numbers were ‘way off the mark’. The Washington-based official said: ‘These actions target militants planning actively to kill Afghans, Pakistanis, Europeans, and Americans among others, and most often the operations occur when they’re training or on the move, getting ready to attack. Over 4,000 Pakistani civilians have been killed by terrorists since 2009 — the threat is clear and real.’

Reprieve, the legal action charity which campaigns on human rights issues said: ’With the Bureau’s findings, at last we have a hard and comprehensive look at the facts. It is a great start. From now on, Reprieve hopes people will read official propaganda about drone warfare with a grain of salt — and ask themselves whether drones are radicalizing as many young men as Guantánamo did.’

To be kept up to date on this and other stories from the Bureau, please subscribe to our newsletter by clicking here.

Over 160 Children Reported among Drone Deaths
Chris Woods / The Bureau of Investigative Journalism

Even one child death from drone missiles or suicide bombings is one child death too many.

(August 11th, 2011) — The Bureau has identified credible reports of 168 children killed in seven years of CIA drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas. These children would account for 44% of the minimum figure of 385 civilians reported killed by the attacks.

Unicef, the United Nations children’s agency, said in response to the findings: ‘Even one child death from drone missiles or suicide bombings is one child death too many.’

Children have been killed throughout the seven years of CIA strikes.

Pakistani father Din Mohammad had the misfortune to live next door to militants in Danda Darpakhel, North Waziristan. His neighbours were reportedly part of the Haqqani Network, a group fighting US forces in nearby Afghanistan.

On September 8 2010, the CIA’s Reaper drones paid a visit. Hellfire missiles tore into the compound killing six alleged militants.

One of the Hellfires missed its target, and Din Mohammad’s house was hit. He survived. But his son, his two daughters and his nephew all died. His eldest boy had been a student at a Waziristan military cadet college. The other three children were all below school age.

Although the Bureau’s field researchers have verified the details of this strike, the US continues to deny civilians are being killed in Pakistan strikes.

Those who died that day are just four of some 168 children credibly reported as killed and identified by the Bureau.

‘One in Three’
The highest number of child deaths occurred during the Bush presidency, with 112 children reportedly killed. More than a third of all Bush drone strikes appear to have resulted in the deaths of children.

On only one occasion during Bush’s time in office did a single child die in a strike. Multiple deaths occurred every other time. On July 28 2008 for example, CIA drones struck a seminary in South Waziristan, killing al Qaeda’s chemical weapons expert Abu Khabab al Masri along with his team (see B18). Publicly the attack was hailed a success.

But the Agency’s strike also killed three young boys and a woman. Despite the secrecy surrounding the drones campaign, details emerged in May of this year that not only was the US aware of this ‘collateral damage’, but that the then-CIA chief Michael Hayden personally apologised to Pakistan’s Prime Minister Gilani for the error.

Escalating War
President Obama, too, has been as Commander-in-Chief responsible for many child deaths in Pakistan. The Bureau has identified 56 children reported killed in drone strikes during his presidency – although child deaths have dropped significantly in recent months.

On February 14 2009 the 8-year-old son of Maezol Khan lost his life. More than 25 alleged militants were killed in a massive strike on a nearby house. But flying shrapnel killed the young boy as he slept next door. His grandfather later asked asked: ‘How can the US invade our homes while we are sleeping, and target our children?’

But one 2009 incident in which children died gives a chilling insight into the tactics of those the CIA are hunting. On August 11 of that year drones attacked an alleged Pakistan Taliban compound, killing up to 25 people. At the time there were reports of women and children killed (see Ob31).

Two years later, young survivor Arshad Khan, now in Pakistani police custody, told reporters that the compound was a training camp for teenage suicide bombers. He named four young victims. Arshad says he was recruited without realising he was to be a suicide bomber.

Commenting on children killed by drone strikes, Unicef’s South Asia regional spokesperson Sarah Crowe told the Bureau:

Even one child death from drone missiles or suicide bombings is one child death too many. Children have no place in war and all parties should do their utmost to protect children from violent attacks at all times.

Reducing Deaths
There are indications that the Obama administration is making efforts to reduce the number of children being killed. Following the incident in September 2010 that killed Din Mohammad’s children, and another strike just weeks earlier in which a further three children died, there has been an apparent steep fall in the number of child fatalities reported by media.

That is partially in line with claims by some US intelligence officials that drone targeting strategies have been altered to reduce civilian casualties. Although the Bureau has demonstrated that CIA claims of ‘zero casualties’ are false, there are fewer reports of child casualties since August 2010.

Along with two undefined reports of ‘children killed’, a 17-year-old student was killed in November last year. And on April 22 2011 two drones destroyed a house and guesthouse in Spinwan, North Waziristan. A 12-year-old boy, Atif, was killed in that strike, according to researchers working with the Bureau in Waziristan.

Mirza Shahzad Akbar, an Islamabad-based lawyer representing a number of families caught up in drone strikes said:

All these children are a big recruitment agent for militants in the area. When you can show people that children are being killed in the drone strikes, all those who are so far non-aligned, that gets them onto the other side. That is what most worries me as a Pakistani.

A US counter-terrorism official, commenting generally on the Bureau’s findings, denied that civilians were being killed in the numbers suggested and said: ‘Nobody is arguing perfection over the life of the program, but this remains the most precise system we’ve ever had in our arsenal.’

* For this research, we have adopted the UN’s definition of a child as being someone aged between 0 and 17. The majority of those we have come across have been significantly younger than 17.

Religious School Attacked

It is one of the worst incidents of the entire drones campaign, yet one of the least reported. A CIA strike on a madrassa or religious school in 2006 killed up to 69 children, among 80 civilians. The attack was on a religious seminary in Chenegai, in Bajaur Agency.

CIA drones attacked on October 30, flattening much of the school. Their target was reportedly the headmaster, a known militant. According to some reports, there was also a token late contribution to the assault by Pakistani military helicopters. But dozens of children were also killed, the youngest aged seven.

Veteran BBC Urdu journalist Rahimullah Yousufzai, speaking from Peshawr, recalls visiting the village just after the strike: ‘People were devastated. I met with a father who had lost two children. He was very patient, talking of how God must have willed this, but he was clearly traumatised.’

Initially the Pakistan Army claimed that it had carried out the bombardment, even as shops and offices closed across the region and protests spread. But as the scale of the attack unfolded, the story changed. The Sunday Times carried a report from a key aide to Pakistan’s then-President Musharraf stating:

We thought it would be less damaging if we said we did it rather than the US. But there was a lot of collateral damage and we’ve requested the Americans not to do it again.

A week after the attack, The News published the names and home villages of 80 victims. 69 were reported as children aged 17 or under. According to the paper’s sources:

It was claimed that one of the deceased was only seven-year old, three were eight, three nine, one was 10, four were 11, four were 12, eight were 13, six were 14, nine were 15, 19 were 16, 12 were 17, three were 18, three were 19 and only two were 21-years-old.

Yousufzai is adamant that the attack was the work of the CIA: ‘I am absolutely confident, 100 per cent, that this was carried out by US drones, based on witnesses at the time and the subsequent comments of [Pakistani] government officials.’

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

US Officials Angrily Condemn Pakistan Drone Report
Anonymous Officials Insist Figures ‘Way Off the Mark’

Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com

(August 12, 2011) — Just one day after the London Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) released a report claiming 168 children and “at least 385 civilians” were killed in US drone strikes against Pakistan, anonymous US officials are coming forth to angrily condemn the report.

The report, which relied entirely on media coverage of the drone strikes, was slammed as “way off the mark” by US officials, who insisted that while they were certain the figures were wrong they would not release figures of their own.

Relying on the preliminary media reports may be unreliable, but it isn’t clear that they are unreliable in the way officials are trying to spin it. Rather the in depth studies of the strikes show that while a large number of the slain are dismissed as “militant suspects” very few confirmed militants are actually killed.

The BIJ report’s figures are telling, in that children are a large portion of the civilians. Women represent virtually all of the rest. Anyone who is male and not a child is automatically listed as a “slain militant” in most reports, because the Pakistani government’s officials term anyone slain a “suspect” on the grounds that if they weren’t suspected they wouldn’t have been attacked.

Indeed, in 2009 alone the numbers point to 700 civilians killed, and even more attacks in 2010, the figure for the entire drone war since 2004 almost certainly is in the thousands, not the hundreds.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.