Pakistan

DRONE WATCH: Strikes Resume in Pakistan

Last weekend, the government of Pakistan prevented an anti-drone protest from entering the tribal regions. Led by former cricket star and now politician Imran Khan and including a delegation of 30 US activists, the caravan was blocked by barricades guarded by riot police.

The Guardian reported:

“Makeshift roadblocks, security threats and warnings from Pakistan's army forced Imran Khan to abandon his unprecedented attempt to lead a cavalcade of anti-drone protesters deep into the country's restive tribal belt on Sunday. Leading a convoy of thousands, the former cricketer was within striking distance of South Waziristan, where the CIA uses remote-controlled planes in the fight against Islamist militants, when he abruptly turned back.

“Later Khan said he had changed plan because of warnings from the army and the risk of becoming stuck after the military-imposed curfew. Addressing an impromptu rally of his supporters, he said the convoy had still been a huge success because he had gone to areas his political rivals "can only look at on maps." "We want to give a message to America that the more you carry out drone attacks, the more people will hate you," Khan told the crowd of around 2,500 supporters.”

On Wednesday, the drone strikes resumed. BBC reported

“A US drone strike targeting a militant base has killed five insurgents in a Pakistani tribal region near the Afghan border, security officials say. … "Several US drones flew into the area before dawn and fired four missiles on a compound, killing five militants," a security official told the AFP news agency after the strike in Hurmuz area, east of Miranshah, the capital of North Waziristan.”

Thursday, another major strike in which Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported 16 people were killed.

A US drone attack killed 16 suspected militants and injured six others in the Orakzai agency of Pakistan’s tribal region on Thursday. Four missiles were fired in the Buland Khel area of the Orakzai agency, which is close to the borders of the North and South Waziristan tribal regions in Fata.”

The Associated Press added that according to a government administrator, as many as 12 others were injured and that “Drones were still flying over the site of the attack and locals were reportedly staying away from the site.”

Young Pakistani Activist for Girls' Education Shot by Taliban

One thing that characterized Afghanistan under Taliban rule before 2001 was their treatment of women and girls. From a society of total repression, new expressions of education, culture and human rights have slowly evolved. As you might suspect, Taliban groups in both Afghanistan and Pakistan are not pleased with that development.

On Tuesday, Malala Yusufzai, a 14-year-old education rights activist, was shot and seriously injured on her way home from school in the Swat Valley region of northwest Pakistan. The New York Times, using local news sources, reported on her injuries

"Pakistan’s Express Tribune reported that doctors at a hospital in Mingora, the region’s main city, said that Malala was “out of danger” because the bullet that “struck her skull and came out on the other side and hit her shoulder” had not damaged her brain. The newspaper added that the girl was later moved to Peshawar in a Pakistani Army helicopter.

"But The News, a Pakistani daily, reported late Tuesday that a bullet is still lodged in her head and arrangements were being made by the government to transport Malala abroad for emergency surgery that could not be performed at the military hospital in Peshawar. The newspaper Dawn also reported that surgeons at the military facility said “she immediately needs a sophisticated surgical procedure, which is not possible in the country” to save her life."

The Taliban is unrepentant. According to Al Jazeera,

"The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has since claimed responsibility for the attack.

"Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told the AFP news agency that the group carried out the attack after repeatedly warning Malala to stop speaking out against them.

"She is a Western-minded girl. She always speaks against us. We will target anyone who speaks against the Taliban," he said by telephone from an undisclosed location. "We warned her several times to stop speaking against the Taliban and to stop supporting Western NGOs, and to come to the path of Islam."

One of the challenges facing the U.S. withdrawal of troops is how to provide security for those courageous activists for women’s and girl’s rights and advancement. In a recent study, “Afghan Women Speak,” David Cortright and Kristen Wall at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies propose that

“Demilitarization and negotiation of a peace agreement should be coupled with the deployment of an interim peacekeeping force under the auspices of the United Nations to provide transitional security protection for civilians.”

Something along those lines must be created, or we will be reading more stories of advocates being attacked.

Drones: Forces of Evil in Heavenly Places

Drone image: dvande / Shutterstock.com

Drone image: dvande / Shutterstock.com

People of Jesus work against demons — against the forces of evil that eat away at the goodness of God, the wonder of creation, the life of God in the world. Demonic forces roam the world, corrupting minds and bodies, cultures and governments, trying to bring ruin upon all that is good and beautiful. They dehumanize, devastate, and destroy life.

Weaponized drones are demons: evil spirits of the air, specters in the heavens, shadowy presences. They are forces of evil in heavenly places, triggering mental anxiety and bodily harm, instigating psychological damage and death, raining down terror and trauma.

DRONE WATCH: Living Under Drones

Researchers at Stanford University and New York University law schools released a major study on the U.S. use of drones in Pakistan, commissioned by a London-based human rights group Reprieve. The study, Living Under Drones, took nine months to complete, including two trips to Pakistan and more than 130 interviews with victims, witnesses and experts. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism is cited in the report for “the best currently available public aggregate data on drone strikes.”

The four major conclusions of the study, highlighted in its executive summary, are:

“First, while civilian casualties are rarely acknowledged by the US government, there is significant evidence that US drone strikes have injured and killed civilians.

“Second, US drone strike policies cause considerable and under-accounted-for harm to the daily lives of ordinary civilians, beyond death and physical injury. Drones hover twenty-four hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles, and public spaces without warning. Their presence terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities.

“Third, publicly available evidence that the strikes have made the US safer overall is ambiguous at best. The strikes have certainly killed alleged combatants and disrupted armed actor networks. However, serious concerns about the efficacy and counter-productive nature of drone strikes have been raised. The number of “high-level” targets killed as a percentage of total casualties is extremely low—estimated at just 2%.

“Fourth, current US targeted killings and drone strike practices undermine respect for the rule of law and international legal protections and may set dangerous precedents. This report casts doubt on the legality of strikes on individuals or groups not linked to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2011, and who do not pose imminent threats to the US.”

You can read the entire report, along with data, victim’s stories, and resources.

News stories on the study include BBCGuardianChicago Tribune/Los Angeles Times, and CNN

DRONE WATCH: Five Dead in Pakistan Attack

In the second attack in three days, a drone attack late Monday in northwest Pakistan killed five militants, including two linked to al Qaeda. DAWN reports

“Two key al Qaeda linked operatives, including an operational commander have been killed in Monday’s US drone strike in North Wazirsitan Agency, official sources said.

“The al Qaeda linked militants killed in the drone strike have been identified as Abu Kasha Al-Iraqi and Saleh Al-Turki, an intelligence source told Dawn.Com.

“Abu Kasha Al-Iraqi, hailing from Iraq, had arrived in North Waziristan Agency in 2001 and had since been one of the key operational commanders of the al Qaeda in North Waziristan tribal region, intelligence officials said.”

The Associated Press and Agence France Presse carried earlier reports of the story, before the identifications were made.

DRONE WATCH: Attack Kills 3 in Pakistan.

Al Jazeera reports:

“At least three people have been killed in a suspected US drone attack in Pakistan's northwestern region along the Afghan border, according to a Pakistani security official.

“The target of Saturday’s attack was a vehicle in Dattakhel area in North Waziristan, one of seven tribal districts and hotbed of al-Qaeda-linked fighters. All three people travelling in the car were killed and the vehicle completely destroyed, the security official said on condition of anonymity.”

The attack was also reported in Pakistani newspapers DAWN and The Nation.

Activists Hail Release of Christian Pastor in Iran, Teen in Pakistan

Religious rights activists are hailing the release over the weekend of an Iranian pastor accused of apostasy and a Pakistani girl who was charged with blasphemy.

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani was released on Saturday after a six-hour hearing, reported the American Center for Law and Justice, which worked to garner American support for the minister’s release. The Christian convert had faced possible execution.

“Your prayers, your advocacy, and your voice has been heard,” read an online announcement from ACLJ.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom welcomed Nadarkhani’s release “after being unjustly imprisoned for three years because of his faith,” said its chair, Katrina Lantos Swett.

DRONE WATCH: August 2012 Update

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has released its monthly report on covert actions in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.

Pakistan: August sees the highest number of CIA strikes in Pakistan since October 2011. A number of senior militants are killed along with at least two named civilians.

July 2012 actions

Total CIA strikes in August: 7
Total killed in strikes in August: 29-65, of whom at least 2 were reportedly civilians

For the Bureau’s full Pakistan databases click here.

Yemen: At least 26 people are killed in five confirmed US drone strikes in Yemen. This is still less than the May peak. Civilian casualties are confirmed for the first time since May.

August 2012 actions

Confirmed US drone strikes: 5
Further reported/possible US strike events: 1
Total reported killed in US operations: 26-33
Civilians reported killed in US strikes: 2

Click here for the full Yemen data.

Somalia: For the fourth month no US military actions are reported in Somalia.

Click here for the Bureau’s full data on Somalia.

DRONE WATCH: Drone Weekend

U.S. drones are having a busy weekend, killing people in both Pakistan and Yemen.

On Saturday, an attack in Pakistan is reported to have killed six people. Pakistan’s The Nation reports that “A U.S. drone strike targeting a compound on Saturday killed at least six suspected militants in North Waziristan’s Datta Khel tehsil bordering Afghanistan.” DAWN newspaper added that six drones flying low in Dattakhel fired four rockets on a vehicle and a house.”

On Sunday, AP reported a strike in Yemen killed five people, including a top al-Qaida militant wanted for allegedly masterminding a 2002 attack on a French oil tanker.

In a separate attack, 14 civilians were killed when a disputed strike hit two cars. In the same story, AP reported:

“Yemeni fighter planes mistakenly hit vehicles carrying civilians traveling south of the capital, killing 14. Military officials said the airstrikes in Radda in the province of Bayda were based on faulty intelligence that the passengers were al-Qaida members. Missiles fired from the warplanes hit two vehicles carrying local residents returning to their villages. Tribesman Sheik Ahmed Ali said the dead included three women and three children.”

The Yemen Post, however, cites “local sources” saying the attack was by a U.S, drone. Al Jazeera, citing officials and local tribal leaders, also reported the attack as a drone strike. Bloomberg, citing an “independent Yemeni news website,” reported that “it wasn’t clear whether the strike was launched from a U.S. drone or a Yemeni warplane.”

Either way, 14 civilians are dead due to faulty intelligence. Ultimately, that is more important than the source of the missiles that killed them.

DRONE WATCH: Pakistan Protests Drone Strikes

The Pakistan Foreign Office has formally protested this week’s drone strikes. DAWN, a leading Pakistani newspaper, reported today,

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Foreign Office on Thursday summoned a senior American diplomat to protest against US drone strikes in the country’s troubled tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. According to a statement issued by the Foreign Office spokesman, the US Embassy in Pakistan was “démarched on recent drone strikes in North Waziristan.”

Pakistani officials told the diplomat, who was not identified, that the attacks were unacceptable, unlawful and a violation of the country’s sovereignty. “A senior US diplomat was called to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and informed that the drone strikes were unlawful, against international law and a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty,” said an official statement. “It was emphatically stated that such attacks were unacceptable.”

How much longer will the U.S. government be able to flout international law?

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