LONDON - British drones have killed hundreds of militants in secret SAS attacks, reveals the Sunday People.
RAF Reapers were used in more than 4,490 missions against some of the most dangerous insurgent leaders in war-ravaged Afghanistan.
The Sunday People has learnt the controversial aircraft have had a devastating impact on the militants’ 13-year guerrilla campaign. Some of the most spectacular successes against the rebels have come using drones to support SAS raids.
Just last month more than 100 militants were killed in one SAS operation which used RAF Reapers to attack an insurgent stronghold, the newspaper said Sunday.
The aircraft have gathered vital intelligence about the movements of rebels and al-Qaeda terrorists. After a Freedom of Information request by the Sunday People, the Ministry of Defence admitted 474 bombs and missiles have been fired from RAF Reapers in Afghanistan since 2008.
The MoD insisted the drones were only used against "legitimate military objectives". But they admitted four civilians died in a strike against two militant trucks packed with explosives in 2011.
The 10 reapers now in Afghanistan carry thermal-imaging cameras and can operate day or night in any weather. They are piloted by a two-man RAF crew who controls them remotely from a British airbase using satellite links.
Since 2008 the reapers have been armed with smart weapons like Hellfire anti-tank missiles and 500lb bombs. They can fly unseen and unheard for 18 hours a day at altitudes of 30,000ft, transmitting real-time video of suspects to their controllers. The information is then passed on to the SAS to plan air and ground attacks.
Defence sources claim the missions have killed hundreds of senior and middle-ranking militant commanders and although the use of drones worries many, the MoD insists they have saved the lives of thousands of British and coalition troops.
RAF Reapers were used three weeks ago to prevent the militants taking the key town of Sangin in Helmand. Drones pummelled rebel strongholds with bombs and missiles while SAS teams moved in on foot.
Hundreds of British troops have been killed and injured in Sangin since it was first occupied by the coalition in 2006.
More than 100 Afghan police and soldiers died in a militant raid in July. A battle between 800 insurgents and a force of SAS and Afghans raged for a week, leaving at least 150 militants dead and the town still in Afghan control.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan revealed 45 civilians were killed by drones in 2013 - a third of all air-strike deaths during the year.
Across the border in Pakistan, coalition drone strikes against militant insurgents based there are said to have killed up to 900 civilians.
Chris Cole, head of campaign group Drone Wars UK, said: "Just over 80 per cent of all air-strikes in the last three years were from drones."
"That is a massive change and we need to know why that is happening. Armed drones will simply mean more warfare because they make it too easy to choose so-called 'risk-free' lethal force rather than engage in long-term sustainable solutions," he said.