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Reader riposte: Drones and civilians

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8 November 2011 09:17

Nic Maclellan:

The Interpreter's debate on the use of drones for targeted attacks comes during the week when two young Pakistanis were killed by a Hellfire missile after attending a meeting to highlight the civilian death toll from drone attacks! For details, see this New York Times Op Ed and reports in The Australian (subscription required).

"TWO boys have been killed by a missile fired from a US drone only three days after attending a public meeting to draw attention to the mounting civilian death toll from drone strikes in Pakistan. Tariq Aziz, 16, and his 12-year-old cousin, Waheed Khan, were killed last Monday on their way to Tariq's aunt's home in Norak near the Afghan border, in a strike that undermines US claims that missiles targeting militants cause no civilian casualties."

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (based at City University in London) is conducting a project where they monitor all reported drone attacks in Pakistan. Based on their documentation of 306 missile strikes from remotely piloted drones in Pakistan (as of November 2011), there are reports of at least 2,349 deaths with, at minimum, 392 civilians killed — including 175 children.

The initial comment that started this debate suggested there was a 'moral panic' about the use of drones and that the transformation of targeted attacks represents 'a significant moral advance.' But growing evidence of civilian casualties from drone attacks raises serious questions, not just about the morality of civilian deaths, but about the ways that these attacks are contributing to increasing anger towards ISAF forces in many border communities in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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