PressTV & the Los Angeles Times – 2011-11-06 14:29:24
US Drone Raids Kill over 120 in Two Days
(November 3, 2011) — At least 127 people have been killed in separate US assassination drone strikes in Somalia and Pakistan’s northwestern tribal region bordering Afghanistan over the past two days.
On Thursday, 41 people were killed and 33 others were injured when the US military launched a assassination drone attack on the outskirts of Hoomboy town, which is situated in Somalia’s southern region of the Middle Juba. The aerial attack followed a US assassination strike against Jamame town in Somalia’s southern Jubbada Hoose region. At least 28 people were killed and dozens more were wounded.
Meanwhile, at least three people were killed in a non-UN-sanctioned US assassination drone attack on Pakistan’s northwestern region of North Waziristan on Thursday.
The attack took place in Darpa Khel village, which is located about four kilometers (two miles) west of Miranshah, the main town in the district of North Waziristan. Local security officials said a drone fired two missiles on a compound in the attack.
On Wednesday, the US remote-controlled assassination drones launched aerial attacks on Qeydar and Marodile villages, which are situated between Guriceel and Balanbale districts in Somalia’s central region of Galguduud. Somali tribal elders said that at least 38 people were killed and more than 74 people were also injured in the strikes.
Earlier in the day, 20 people were killed and 60 others were injured after a US assassination drone launched a strike on the outskirts of Kismayo, a strategically important port city on Somalia’s Indian Ocean coast located some 500 kilometers (310 miles) south of the Somali capital Mogadishu.
The US says its remote-controlled unmanned assassination drones target militants. However, reports have shown that most of those killed in such aerial attacks are civilians.
US Terror Drones Kill 24 More in Somalia
(November 6, 2011) — At least 24 Somalis have been killed in a US assassination drone attack near the country’s border with Kenya, Press TV reports.
The remotely-controlled drones launched an aerial attack on the town of Kuda along the coast of Kismayo, a strategically-important port city located some 500 kilometers (310 miles) south of the capital Mogadishu on Saturday evening. The attack followed two similar US assassination strikes against Bardera city and Burdhubo town in the southern Gedo region. At least 75 people were killed and over 80 others wounded in the two strikes.
Somalia is the sixth country, where the United States has used the aircraft to launch deadly missile strikes. The US military has also used the drones in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Iraq, and Yemen.
On October 28, Washington admitted to flying unmanned aerial vehicles from Somalia’s western neighbor of Ethiopia.
“The US has unarmed and unmanned aircraft at a facility there (Ethiopia) to be used only for surveillance as part of a broad, sustained integrated campaign to counter terrorism,” said the Pentagon spokesman Captain John Kirby. The confirmation came a day after The Washington Post revealed in a report that the US flied ‘armed’ drones from an airfield in Ethiopia’s southern city of Arba Minch.
Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991, when warlords overthrew former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. Strategically located in the Horn of Africa, Somalia remains one of the countries generating the highest number of refugees and internally-displaced persons in the world.
Multiple Missteps Led to Drone Killing US Troops in Afghanistan
David S. Cloud and David Zucchino / Los Angeles Times
WASHINGTON (November 5, 2011) — On the evening of April 5, a pilot settled into a leather captain’s chair at Creech Air Force Base in southern Nevada and took the controls of a Predator drone flying over one of the most violent areas of southwestern Afghanistan. Minutes later, his radio crackled.
A firefight had broken out. Taliban insurgents had ambushed about two dozen Marines patrolling a bitterly contested road. The Air Force captain angled his joystick and the drone veered toward the fighting taking place half a world away, where it was already morning. He powered up two Hellfire missiles under its wings and ordered a crewmember responsible for operating the drone’s cameras to search for enemy fighters.
It didn’t take long to find something. Three figures, fuzzy blobs on the pilot’s small black-and-white screen, lay in a poppy field a couple of hundred yards from the road.
“Hey now, wait. Standby on these,” the pilot cautioned. “They could be animals in the field.” Seconds later, tiny white flashes appeared by the figures — the heat signature of gunfire. “There they are,” he said, now sure he was looking at the enemy.
At an Air National Guard base in Terre Haute, Ind., an intelligence analyst whose job it was to monitor the video to help prevent mistakes on the mission also observed the muzzle flashes — but noticed that they were firing away from the embattled Marines.
Marines at Patrol Base Alcatraz, 12 miles from the firefight, watched their screens too, as they kept in contact with both the drone crew and the platoon members, who had set out from the base just an hour earlier. It would be their decision whether to call in a missile strike.
Thirty-one seconds after the pilot reported muzzle flashes, the Marines at Alcatraz ordered that the Predator be prepared to strike if the shooters could be confirmed as hostile. At 8:49 a.m., 29 minutes after the ambush began, they authorized the pilot to fire.
In minutes, two Americans would be dead.
The decision to fire a missile from one of the growing fleet of US unmanned aircraft is the result of work by ground commanders, pilots and analysts at far-flung military installations, who analyze video and data feeds and communicate by a system of voice and text messages.
In addition to the platoon taking fire that morning in Helmand province’s Upper Sangin Valley, the mission involved Marine Corps and Air Force personnel at four locations: Marines of the 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion at Alcatraz, the drone crew in Nevada, the analyst in Indiana and a mission intelligence coordinator at March Air Reserve Base in California.
Senior officers say drone technology has vastly improved their ability to tell friend from foe in the confusion of battle. But the video can also prompt commanders to make decisions before they fully understand what they’re seeing.
In February 2009, a crew operating a drone over Afghanistan misidentified a civilian convoy as an enemy force. The Predator pilot and the Army captain who called in the airstrike disregarded warnings from Air Force analysts who had observed children in the convoy. At least 15 people were killed.
Adding layers of personnel like the analyst in Indiana to cut down on errors also comes at a price: It may slow down the decision to strike when American lives are at risk.
The 2nd Reconnaissance Battalion operated in one of the most violent parts of Afghanistan, an area where drones patrolled virtually nonstop. It had recently revised its procedures to speed up Predator strikes, seeking to prevent “delay of missions by injection of comments” from the Distributed Ground System — military terminology for analysts like the one in Indiana.
The embattled platoon was part of the Lone Star Battalion, a reserve unit based in Houston. The unit hadn’t seen combat for five years when orders came last year to prepare for a nine-month deployment to Afghanistan.
Like any reserve unit, the battalion was a pickup team. Some Marines had combat experience, others had none at all.
Copyright (c) 2011, Los Angeles Times
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.