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More Than 160 Children Killed in America's Drone War in Pakistan

One in seven of all US strikes appear to have resulted in child fatalities.
 
 
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This story first appeared on the Bureau of Investigative Journalismsite. 

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has identified credible reports of 168 children killed in seven years of CIA drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas. These children would account for 44% of the minimum figure of 385 civilians reported killed by the attacks.

Unicef, the United Nations children’s agency, said in response to the findings: ‘Even one child death from drone missiles or suicide bombings is one child death too many.’ 

Children have been killed throughout the seven years of CIA strikes.

Pakistani father Din Mohammad had the misfortune to live next door to militants in Danda Darpakhel, North Waziristan. His neighbours were reportedly part of the Haqqani Network, a group fighting US forces in nearby Afghanistan.

On September 8 2010, the CIA’s Reaper drones paid a visit. Hellfire missiles tore into the compound killing six alleged militants.

One of the Hellfires missed its target, and Din Mohammad’s house was hit. He survived. But his son, his two daughters and his nephew all died. His eldest boy had been a student at a Waziristan military cadet college. The other three children were all below school age.

Although the Bureau’s (Bureau of Investigative Journalism) field researchers have verified the details of this strike, the US  continues to deny civilians are being killed in Pakistan strikes.

Those who died that day are just four of some 168 children credibly reported as killed and identified by the Bureau.

‘One in three’
The highest number of child deaths occurred during the Bush presidency, with 112 children reportedly killed. More than a third of all Bush drone strikes appear to have resulted in the deaths of children.

On only one occasion during Bush’s time in office did a single child die in a strike. Multiple deaths occurred every other time.  On July 28 2008 for example, CIA drones struck a seminary in South Waziristan, killing al Qaeda’s chemical weapons expert Abu Khabab al Masri along with his team. Publicly the attack was hailed a success.

But the Agency’s strike also killed three young boys and a woman. Despite the secrecy surrounding the drones campaign,  details emerged in May of this year that not only was the US aware of this ‘collateral damage’, but that the then-CIA chief Michael Hayden personally apologised to Pakistan’s Prime Minister Gilani for the error.

Religious school attacked
It is one of the worst incidents of the entire drones campaign, yet one of the least reported. A CIA strike on a madrassa or religious school in 2006 killed up to 69 children, among 80 civilians.

 

The attack was on a religious seminary in Chenegai, in Bajaur Agency.

CIA drones attacked on October 30, flattening much of the school. Their target was reportedly the headmaster, a known militant. According to some reports, there was also a token late contribution to the assault by Pakistani military helicopters. But dozens of children were also killed, the youngest aged seven.

Veteran BBC Urdu journalist Rahimullah Yousufzai, speaking from Peshawr, recalls visiting the village just after the strike: ‘People were devastated. I met with a father who had lost two children. He was very patient, talking of how God must have willed this, but he was clearly traumatised.’

Initially the Pakistan Army claimed that it had carried out the bombardment, even as shops and offices closed across the region and protests spread. But as the scale of the attack unfolded, the story changed.  The Sunday Times carried a report from a key aide to Pakistan’s then-President Musharraf stating:

We thought it would be less damaging if we said we did it rather than the US. But there was a lot of collateral damage and we’ve requested the Americans not to do it again.

 
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