Majority of CIA Drone Attacks in Pakistan Hit Homes

Sunday, May 25, 2014
Drone strike rubble in Pakistan in 2009 (Photo: Reuters)

New research shows that most drone attacks staged by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in Pakistan target private homes, and the majority of those happen at night, when most people are inside.


An investigation by Forensic Architecture, a research project based at London’s Goldsmiths University, and New York-based Situ Research showed four salient points, according to the Center for Investigative Journalism:


  • Sixty-one percent of drone strikes in Pakistan targeted domestic buildings, with at least 132 houses destroyed, in more than 380 strikes.
  • At least 222 civilians are estimated to be among the 1,500 or more people killed in attacks on such buildings.
  • The CIA has consistently attacked houses have throughout the 10-year campaign in Pakistan.
  • The time of an attack affects how many people—and how many civilians—are likely to die. Houses are twice as likely to be attacked at night compared with those in the afternoon. Strikes that took place in the evening, when families are likely to be at home, were particularly deadly.


Reports often say that “compounds” are attacked. The fact is that compounds are a common part of domestic life in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Members of an extended family often live in several buildings on one plot of land. Between 20 and 50 people usually live in a compound. Attacks can take a large toll on women and children, who often stay inside buildings and thus are invisible to drone operators.


The drone tactics have caused Pakistani civilians to change their way of life. Previously, when militants would come to a compound, civilians would go about their business. Now if someone likely to be the target of a drone strike camps out at a compound, the civilians leave, returning after the militants leave or are killed. In that case, of course, the civilian’s home is destroyed.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Most U.S. Drone Strikes In Pakistan Attack Houses (by Alice K. Ross and Jack Serle, Bureau of Investigative Journalism)

Total Drone Deaths in Pakistan Top 2,000 (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)


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