Conflict & Justice

Pakistan says only 3 percent of US drone strike deaths are civilians


A US Predator unmanned drone armed with a missile stands on the tarmac of Kandahar military airport in 2010. Drones have been a key element of the fight against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere.


Massoud Hossaini

Pakistan said Wednesday that US drone strikes had killed 67 civilians since 2008, a figure much lower than previous estimates.

The Defense Ministry told the Pakistani Senate that 317 drone strikes had killed 2,160 Islamic militants.

Civilians accounted for 3 percent of total deaths. The ministry said no civilian had died since the beginning of 2012.

Previous calculations by both the Pakistan government and independent organizations had put the death toll in the hundreds. 

London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which researches drone attacks, estimates at least 400 civilians have been killed since 2004. Washington-based New America Foundation has calculated at least 258 civilian deaths over the same period.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch released separate reports earlier last week on the United States' targeted killing program accusing Washington of violating international law and harming more civilians than admitted.

More from GlobalPost: Pakistani family recounts drone terror in visit to US

The US drone strikes target alleged militants with ties to Al Qaeda and the Taliban, and are deeply unpopular in Pakistan. Many believe they violate the country’s sovereignty and kill too many civilians.

The new figures were released a day after the Rehman family traveled to the United States to testify before US lawmakers about a drone strike that killed their grandmother.

Rafiq Rehman, the son of the slain grandmother, told Agence France-Presse, "My daughter does not have the face of a terrorist and neither did my mother. It just doesn't make sense to me, why this happened."

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said he urged US President Barack Obama to end the strikes during a meeting between the two leaders in Washington last week. 

"I also brought up the issue of drones in our meeting, emphasizing the need to end ... such strikes," Sharif was quoted as saying.

But Obama made no mention of the drones when he later spoke to reporters. 

The US has consistently defended the program in the past. President Barack Obama has said drone strikes have averted “more intrusive military action.”

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