US drone attacks in Pakistan terrorising civilian population

Civilians scared to gather in groups out in open for any reason due to US campaign, report says

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 September, 2012, 4:10am


The US campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan's northwestern tribal belt is terrorising civilians 24 hours a day who are unwilling to gather in groups - even for weddings and funerals - for fear of being targeted.

The attacks in northwest Pakistan, where militants linked to Taliban and Al-Qaeda have strongholds, have killed thousands of people and created bitter anti-America sentiments since they began in June 2004, according to the report by experts from Stanford Law School and the New York University School of Law.

Aside from casualties, the "Living Under Drones" report said, the missile strikes are affecting daily life in the tribal areas and rescuers are unwilling to help the wounded for fear of being hit by follow-up missiles.

The report, commissioned by British-based charity Reprieve, which campaigns against drone strikes, urged Washington to rethink its drone strategy, arguing it was counterproductive and undermined international law.

Based on media reports and interviews with residents of North Waziristan, one of the areas most heavily targeted by drones, the research said the US conception of the campaign as a "surgically precise and effective tool that makes the US safer" was false.

Drone strikes allow the US to carry out "targeted killings" of people it believes are militants from afar, without endangering American lives, but the campaign has become a festering sore in US-Pakistan relations.

Islamabad says the strikes are counterproductive and a violation of its sovereignty, but US officials are believed to regard them as an effective way of disabling terror groups by killing key members. The Stanford-NYU report said "the publicly available evidence that they have made the US safer overall is ambiguous at best" and the majority of militants killed by drones seemed to be low-ranking.

Reliable casualty figures are difficult to get in the tribal areas, which are off-limits to journalists and aid workers because of security worries and government restrictions.

Citing a CNN report, the Stanford-NYU paper said only around two per cent of those killed in drone strikes were "high-level" targets.