News ID: 154320
Published: 0701 GMT July 02, 2016

Rights group: US downplays drone civilian fatalities

Rights group: US downplays drone civilian fatalities

The White House said up to 116 civilians have been killed by drone and other US strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya since Barack Obama took office in 2009, a figure that has been slammed by watchdog groups as an undercount, which suggests that the real figure could be as high as 1,100.

Published by the director of national intelligence on Friday, the report said that between January 20, 2009, and December 31, 2015, the US carried out 473 strikes, which killed up to 2,581 "combatants" and anywhere from 64 to 116 civilians, reported on Saturday.

The civilian casualties disclosed in the report were from nations not recognized as "battlefields," and did not reflect US air attacks in "areas of active hostilities" such as Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria.

Watchdog and rights groups have long said that the US administration does not know how many civilians it has killed and does not do enough to prevent civilian casualties when carrying out counterterrorism operations.

Reprieve, an international human rights organization, said the US government's previous statements about the drone program have proven to be false by its own internal documents.

It said the Obama administration has "shifted the goalposts on what counts as a 'civilian' to such an extent that any estimate may be far removed from reality".

"In US drone operations, reports suggest all 'military aged males' and potentially even women and children are considered 'enemies killed in action' unless they can 'posthumously' and 'conclusively' prove their innocence," it said.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that anywhere from 492 to about 1,100 civilians have been killed by drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia since 2002.

Shortly after the report was published, Josh Begley, a research editor at The Intercept published a list of 212 civilians killed in Pakistan alone.

In October, an eight-part investigation published by The Intercept as "The Drone Papers", reported that 90 percent of those killed by drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia were not the intended targets.

The investigation, which included a cache of secret military documents, suggested that strikes are often carried out on "thin evidence" and the majority of those killed are not the intended targets.

The report contradicted claims made by Obama on May 2013 that "before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured".

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