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Kill Zone: 468 Pakistani lives lost to US drones in 7 months

Last updated on: August 12, 2011 07:57 IST

Kill Zone: 468 Pakistani lives lost to US drones in 7 months

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Tahir Ali in Islamabad

Despite Islamabad's strong objection, American drones carried out 53 strikes in 2011 that killed 468 people in Pakistan's tribal belt. Though a Lahore court has directed the Pakistani government to take measures to stop these attacks, the US does not seem to be letting up any soon. Tahir Ali reports from Islamabad.

A fresh drone strike on Wednesday targetted a militant hideout in Miranshah, North Wazirstan, that resulted in the killing of at least 21 militants allegedly belonging to the Haqqani network.

The Conflict Monitoring Centre, an independent research centre based in Islamabad, has recently issued a report, which reads that since January this year, US drones carried out 51 strikes that resulted in the killing of 443 people in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

Two drone strikes that killed 25 persons in August are not included in this list, taking the total number of killed people to 468 during the current year.

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Image: A US drone
Photographs: Reuters
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June: The bloodiest month this year

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In January, some 49 people were killed in 11 drone strikes, whereas in February only 4 drone attacks were conducted, that resulted in 21 deaths.

In March, 89 people were killed in 12 predator attacks; in April, 32 causalities were reported in two strikes; in May, nine drone strikes were conducted, that killed 62 people.

In June, 117 people were killed in 12 attacks, while in July, six drone attacks killed 73 people in north and south Waziristan.

According to the report, unmanned predators fired 29 missiles on houses and vehicles, destroying five houses and four vehicles in July.

Five out of six attacks were carried out in north Waziristan. July 11 and 12 were two bloodiest days, when the Central Intelligence Agency killed 63 people in four drone attacks.

Out of these four attacks, three were carried out on July 12, making it the deadliest day of the month.

The report further reveals, "While June was the deadliest month of 2011, July saw a significant reduction in drone attacks. The month saw 12 drone attacks, which killed 117 people."

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Image: Activists of PTI hold up a burning mock drone aircraft during a rally against drone attacks in Peshawar
Photographs: Stringer Pakistan / Reuters
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Pakistan: Torn between the 'good' and 'bad' Taliban

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"However, in July, CIA struck only six times, killing 73 people. These attacks were carried out in three different days of the month. However, the reduction in number of drone attacks cannot be seen a permanent factor as fluctuation in frequency is seen constantly during 2011."

CMC data shows that CIA's focus is back on north Waziristan, as five out of six strikes were recorded there in July.

According to CMC's previous report, it was for the first time since the drone campaign started in 2004 -- that number of attacks in south Waziristan had exceeded the number of attacks in south Waziristan during June 2011 -- as eight out of 12 strikes were carried out in South Waziristan.

South Waziristan mostly hosts the 'bad Taliban' who are involved in anti-Pakistan activates, while North Waziristan has the 'good Taliban' who generally target US and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces across the border inside Afghanistan.

Pakistan is under pressure by the US to carry out a military operation against the Haqqani network and its loyal Taliban factions in North Waziristan.

Recently, it was reported that the military was all set to start an operation in north Waziristan, so the militants shifted their base to south Waziristan, which prompted the US to direct their attack there.

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Image: Pakistan Taliban commander Hakimullah Mehsud (L) is seen with his arm around Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud during a news conference in South Waziristan
Photographs: Stringer Pakistan / Reuters
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'US- Pak agencies overlook civilian deaths to avoid public backlash'

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According CMC's yearly report, the CIA carried out 132 attacks inside Pakistan, and only nine of them were in south Waziristan, in 2010.

The US has targeted a considerable number of foreign militants in north Waziristan -- through its drone strikes and this is apart from the local Taliban. 

During July, Saifullah, a 50-year-old Australian Al Qaeda commander was reportedly killed in a drone attack near the main bazaar in Mir Ali town in north Waziristan.

Saifullah has been described as a middle-ranking Al Qaeda leader, though little is known about him. The Australian government has not confirmed his death yet, and has said that the case is being investigated by relevant agencies.

The report further reads, "No civilian casualty was reported by the media in July. But that does not mean that no civilian was killed. The US and Pakistani security agencies always overlook civilian deaths to avert public backlash."

It should be mentioned here that Muhammad Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Tayiba and Jamat-ud-Dawah is fighting a legal battle against the drone attacks in the Lahore High Court.

"A Pakistani court has adjourned a petition filed by him until September 30, asking the court to direct the government to take steps to stop the US drone attacks in the country's tribal belt," the report says.

Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed of the Lahore High Court on July 13, 2011 adjourned the hearing of the petition, after Deputy Attorney General Zia Al-Qamar Bhatti sought more time to file a reply on behalf of the government", the report reveals.


Image: A supporter of the religious and political party, Jamaat-e-Islami, shouts slogans as hundreds gather to protest against drone attacks, in Karachi
Photographs: Athar Hussain/Reuters
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