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Pakistan criticised over drone victim numbers – Central & South Asia – Al Jazeera English

Pakistan criticised over drone victim numbers – Central & South Asia – Al Jazeera English. (source)

Washington-based New America Foundation says 185 civilians killed in US drone attacks since 2008 [AP]
The Pakistani government has been criticised for lowering civilian casualty numbers of US drone strikes, contradicting its past calculations and estimates by independent organisations.

The defence ministry said on Wednesday that only 67 of 2,227 people killed during the 317 attacks since 2008 were civilians, insisting there have been no civilian casualties since 2011.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, based in London, has estimated that drones have killed at least 300 civilians in Pakistan since 2008, while the Washington-based New America Foundation puts the figure at 185.

The US rarely speaks publicly about the CIA-run drone programme in Pakistan, because it is classified. But some American officials have insisted that the strikes have killed very few civilians and that estimates from theĀ Pakistani government and independent organisations are exaggerated.

‘Apparent discrepancy’

Ben Emmerson, a UN expert investigating drone strikes, said earlier this month that the Pakistani foreign ministry told him that at least 400 civilians had been killed by the attacks in the country since they started in 2004.

“If the true figures for civilian deaths are significantly lower, then it is important that this should now be made clear, and the apparent discrepancy explained,” Emmerson said in an email to the Associated Press news agency.

The attacks, which mainly target suspected rebels near the northwestern border with Afghanistan, are widely unpopular in Pakistan, because they are violating the country’s sovereignty and killing civilians.

The Pakistani government regularly criticises the drone programme in public, even though it is known to have secretly supported at least some of the strikes in the past.

Nawaz Sharif, the Pakistani prime minister, pressed US President Barack Obama to end the attacks in a visit to the White House last week, but the US considers the attacks vital to its battle against al-Qaeda and the TalibanĀ and gave no indication it was willing to abandon them.

 

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