LONDON/NEW YORK – The CIA has been bombing Pakistan’s domestic buildings more than any other targets over the past decade of the drone war launched by the US, the Russia Today news channel reported while quoting a latest research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
“Almost two thirds, or over 60 percent, of all US drone strikes in Pakistan targeted domestic buildings,” the channel reported with reference to the joint research conducted by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ), a London-based non-profit news group, along with the Forensic Architecture, a research unit based at Goldsmiths University, London, and Situ Research in New York.
The authors of the paper analysed thousands of media reports, witness testimonies and field investigations to obtain the data on drone strikes in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan. According to the study, at least 132 houses have been destroyed in more than 380 strikes over the past decade with at least 222 civilians being among the 1,500 or more people killed.
“On average, 6.2 people and 0.9 reported civilians died per strike on domestic buildings,” the paper said, adding that these numbers may be conservative because the Bureau “has found the deaths of women are dramatically underreported.” The seclusion of women and children in the country which orders them to spend more time indoors make them more vulnerable to drone strikes, according to the BIJ’s ‘Naming the Dead’ project.
Women and children are less likely to be seen by [a] drone operator monitoring the structure, says Susan Schuppli, senior research fellow at the Forensic Architecture and the project coordinator. The paper adds that domestic buildings are more likely to be attacked at night compared with in the afternoon. “Strikes that took place in the evening, when families are likely to be at home and gathered together, were particularly deadly,” says the paper.
Civilians usually avoid going out at night as Taliban militants do not allow them to leave their homes without reason, said Mansur Mahsud, director of Islamabad-based organization the FATA Research Centre. The report says that when drones attack the target they usually call it a compound, and often a militant compound. However, they are often domestic spaces.
The study also showed that on average more civilians die when a building is hit by a drone than when a vehicle is targeted. However, despite rising proportion of strikes on houses, there haven’t been any reports of civilian casualties in the past 18 months. The study found that the highest number of casualties is reported after the attacks on mosques and madrassas.
A US official told BIJ that US counterterrorism operations are precise, lawful, and effective and that the country only targets terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people. “Any suggestion otherwise is flat wrong. Furthermore, before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured – the highest standard we can set,” he added.