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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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A week after the attack,  The News published the names and home villages of 80 victims. 69 were reported as children aged 17 or under. According to the paper’s sources:

It was claimed that one of the deceased was only seven-year old, three were eight, three nine, one was 10, four were 11, four were 12, eight were 13, six were 14, nine were 15, 19 were 16, 12 were 17, three were 18, three were 19 and only two were 21-years-old.

Yousufzai is adamant that the attack was the work of the CIA: ‘I am absolutely confident, 100 per cent, that this was carried out by US drones, based on witnesses at the time and the subsequent comments of [Pakistani] government officials.’ 

 

Escalating War
President Obama, too, has been as Commander-in-Chief responsible for many child deaths in Pakistan. The Bureau has identified 56 children reported killed in drone strikes during his presidency – although child deaths have dropped significantly in recent months.

On February 14 2009 the 8-year-old son of Maezol Khan lost his life. More than 25 alleged militants were killed in a massive strike on a nearby house. But flying shrapnel killed the young boy as he slept next door. His grandfather later asked asked: ‘How can the US invade our homes while we are sleeping, and target our children?’

But one 2009 incident in which children died gives a chilling insight into  the tactics of those the CIA are hunting.  On August 11 of that year drones attacked an alleged Pakistan Taliban compound, killing up to 25 people. At the time there were reports of women and children killed.

Two years later, young survivor Arshad Khan, now in Pakistani police custody, told reporters that the compound was a training camp for teenage suicide bombers.  He named four young victims. Arshad says he was recruited without realising he was to be a suicide bomber.

Commenting on children killed by drone strikes, Unicef’s South Asia regional spokesperson Sarah Crowe told the Bureau:

Even one child death from drone missiles or suicide bombings is one child death too many. Children have no place in war and all parties should do their utmost to protect children from violent attacks at all times.

Reducing deaths
There are indications that the Obama administration is making efforts to reduce the number of children being killed. Following the incident in September 2010 that killed Din Mohammad’s children, and another strike just weeks earlier in which a further three children died, there has been an apparent steep fall in the number of child fatalities reported by media.

That is partially in line with claims by some US intelligence officials that drone targeting strategies have been altered to reduce civilian casualties. Although the Bureau has demonstrated that CIA claims of ‘zero casualties’ are false, there are fewer reports of child casualties since August 2010.

Along with two undefined reports of ‘children killed’, a 17-year-old student was killed in November last year. And on April 22 2011 two drones destroyed a house and guesthouse in Spinwan, North Waziristan. A 12-year-old boy, Atif, was killed in that strike, according to researchers working with the Bureau in Waziristan.

Mirza Shahzad Akbar, an Islamabad-based lawyer representing a number of families caught up in drone strikes said:

All these children are a big recruitment agent for militants in the area. When you can show people that children are being killed in the drone strikes, all those who are so far non-aligned, that gets them onto the other side. That is what most worries me as a Pakistani.

A US counter-terrorism official, commenting generally on the Bureau’s findings, denied that civilians were being killed in the numbers suggested and said: ‘Nobody is arguing perfection over the life of the program, but this remains the most precise system we’ve ever had in our arsenal.’

 
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