Residents of Pakistani Town Paint Picture of U.S. Drones as Ever-Present “Angels of Death”

Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Noor Syed, aged 8, killed in drone strike in Pakistan (photo: Noor Behram, Bureau of Investigative Journalism)

The Obama administration has insisted that U.S. drone warfare in Pakistan has been a success, killing dozens of al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders while causing little harm to noncombatants.


But residents in the Pakistani town of Miram Shah told a different story to The New York Times.


“The drones are like the angels of death,” shopkeeper Nazeer Gul told the newspaper. “Only they know when and where they will strike.”


Living in North Waziristan, which the Central Intelligence Agency has targeted repeatedly with drone strikes, has been fraught with terror, according to residents.


Miram Shah has endured at least 13 drone strikes since 2008. Another 25 attacks have occurred in adjoining districts—“more than any other urban settlement in the world,” the Times’ Declan Walsh and Ihsanullah Tipu Mehsud reported.


A new report (pdf) from Amnesty International supports the claims of Miram Shah, saying at least 19 civilians in the surrounding area were killed in just two drone attacks since January 2012.


Among the victims since early last year were a 68-year-old woman picking vegetables in a field with her grandchildren, and 18 laborers, including a 12-year-old boy, who were about to sit down together for a meal after a day’s work.


The human rights group said in a statement that the U.S. has “carried out unlawful killings in Pakistan through drone attacks, some of which could even amount to war crimes.”


The strikes are said to mostly target highly populated neighborhoods, and have hit such frequented spots as a market, a former girls’ school and a bakery. Even when the drones don’t fire missiles, they are constantly hovering above, conducting round-the-clock surveillance with high-resolution cameras, according to the report. Residents live under a watchful eye, never knowing when the drones won’t just watch, but will attack.

-Noel Brinkerhoff, Danny Biederman


To Learn More:

Civilian Deaths in Drone Strikes Cited in Report (by Declan Walsh and Ihsanullah Tipu Mehsud, New York Times)

USA Must Be Held to Account for Drone Killings in Pakistan (Amnesty International)

"Will I be Next?" US Drone Strikes in Pakistan (Amnesty International) (pdf)

Secret Pakistan Report Documents High Civilian Death Toll from U.S. Drone Strikes (by Danny Biederman and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)    

New U.S. Counterterrorism Playbook to Exclude Pakistan from Drone “Kill” Rules (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Unnamed U.S. Official Denies Drones Have Killed 168 Children in Pakistan (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)     


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