Conflict & Justice

US drone strike kills 3 or 5 or 6 or 8 people in Pakistan




Pakistani security officials have told news agencies that "six militants" were killed in a U.S. drone strike on Friday. The strike, according to the report, killed four foreign militants, two others, and destroyed a "compound" in North Waziristan.

"The U.S. drone fired two missiles which hit a house. Two locals and four militants of central Asian origin have been killed," a Pakistani security official told AFP.

The Express Tribune, however, reported that five people were killed. The Indo-Asian News Service reported that eight people were killed. Monster and Critics reported that four people were killed. And CNN, citing Pakistani intelligence officials, said that three people were killed.

So, how many people were killed in the latest U.S. drone attack on Pakistan? No one really knows.

All accounting of those killed in the not-so covert U.S. drone war in Pakistan is at best an estimate. And if we don't know the exact numbers of those killed, how do we know exactly who was killed? Were there three militants or eight militants? Or was it six militants and two civilians? No one really knows.

Some are now calling on the United States to shoulder the burden of accounting for how many people, whether militant or civilian or otherwise, have been killed in its ongoing, and expanding, drone war.

The Oxford Research Group, a London-based think tank, released a report in June that found a legal obligation under international law to "identify all casualties" in an armed conflict, including the drone war. The group then launched a major international campaign, supported by dozens of humanitarian organizations, on Sept. 15 to demand that all states record every casualty of an armed conflict.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which has attempted an accounting of those killed since the drone strikes began in Pakistan in 2004, estimates that between 2,300 and 2,900 people have so far been killed in 295 total strikes in Pakistan.

More than 240 of those strikes have been conducted since President Barack Obama took office in 2008.