Friday, March 18, 2011

C.I.A. Drones Kill Civilians in Pakistan

ONE day after a CIA contractor (Raymond Davis) was absolved by a Pakistani court of a double murder charge, Pakistan and US relations were plunged into a new crisis over a CIA-directed drone missile strike that Pakistan said killed at least 36 civilians. Here is some background to the case involving the former special forces soldier.

Salman Masood reported from Islamabad, and Pir Zubair Shah from New York.

Several missiles fired from American drone aircraft on Thursday struck a meeting of local people in northwest Pakistan who had gathered with Taliban mediators to settle a dispute over a chromite mine. The attack, a Pakistani intelligence official said, killed 26 of 32 people present, some of them Taliban fighters, but the majority elders and local people not attached to the militants.

The Pakistani military chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, issued an unusual and unusually strong condemnation of the attack. “It is highly regrettable that a jirga of peaceful citizens, including elders of the area, was carelessly and callously targeted with complete disregard to human life,” the statement said.

About four missiles fired from one or more drones hit the meeting, known as a jirga, of two tribes and Taliban mediators who had gathered on open ground at a market in Datta Khel, in North Waziristan, according to two residents who live nearby in Miram Shah.

“The Taliban will never gather in such a large number in broad daylight to be targeted by the drones,” according to a resident who did not want to be identified for fear of running afoul of the militants. “It has been a big mistake to target the jirga, as it will have severe consequences.”

The drone strikes on Thursday were the second such barrage in two days in Datta Khel, and the sixth in the tribal areas in the past week, according to The Long War Journal, a Web site that monitors the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Resource: Emphasis Regional Diplomacy

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