A field investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has uncovered fresh evidence that the CIA briefly resumed targeting first responders to drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas with ‘double-tap’ attacks.
The Bureau, a non-profit, non-partisan, London-based news organization, first reported that the US deliberately targeted first responders attempting to rescue drone strike victims with follow-up attacks, called ‘double-tap’ strikes, in February 2012. In addition to targeting rescuers, CIA drones also attacked people attending funerals of suspected militants killed by US forces.
Chris Woods of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism wrote:
We noted that there were repeated reports at the time… in publications like the New York Times, news agencies like Reuters, by CNN, that there were these strikes on rescuers, that there were reports that there had been an initial strike and then, some minutes later, as people had come forward to help and pull out the dead and injured, that drones had returned to the scene and had attacked rescuers. We’ve been able to name just over 50 civilians that we understand have been killed in those attacks. In total, we think that more than 75 civilians have been killed, specifically in these attacks on rescuers and on mourners, on funeral-goers.
Christof Heyns, the United Nations special rapporteur on torture, said that “if civilian rescuers are indeed being intentionally targeted, there is no doubt about the law: those strikes are a war crime.”
The Bureau’s most recent field investigation focused on US drone strikes which occurred in North Waziristan, mainly those which targeted senior al-Qaeda leader Yahya al-Libi, who was killed by a CIA drone strike in June 2012. According to the Bureau, the attack which killed al-Libi was one of a series of drone strikes which killed as many as 16 people.
It was widely believed that ‘double-tap’ drone strikes had ended by summer 2011. But international media, including CNN, AFP and the BBC, reported that the practice had evidently resumed in the spring and summer of 2012. According to Britain’s Channel 4, a drone strike even targeted a mosque, killing 10 people. In June 2012, the Guardian reported 12 mourners were killed in a drone strike on a funeral.
Mushtaq Yusufzai, a respected Pakistani journalist, claims 53 people were killed and another 57 wounded in these ‘double-tap’ strikes.
It is not known whether any innocent civilians were killed in these attacks.
“It is possible some civilians were killed, but we don’t know,” Yusufzai said.
An investigation by the legal charity Reprieve, however, concluded that eight innocent civilians were killed by a US ‘double-tap’ drone strike on June 6, 2012, and that more civilians were possibly killed in an attack the following month.
Yusufzai said that civilians rarely participate in rescue operations and are often prohibited from doing so by militants, for their own safety.
But the Obama administration’s dubious practice of classifying all military-aged males in a drone strike zone as ‘militants,’ even when they are not, in an attempt to artificially lower the drone death toll makes it even more difficult to discern whether or not any innocents have been killed or injured.
According to the Bureau, there have been a total of 371 US drone strikes against Pakistani targets since 2004. As many as 3,584 people have been killed in these strikes, as many as 928 of them civilians. The United Nations has launched an investigation of civilian deaths caused by drone strikes as possible US war crimes.
The US government denes targeting first responders with drones.
“For at least the last several years that I have been here in Pakistan and more intimately associated with the knowledge of this [drone campaign], there was never any deliberate strikes against civilian rescuers,” acting US ambassador to Pakistan Richard E. Hoagland told a group of US peace activists in 2012.
By: Brett Wilkins