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In Pakistan, First US Drone Strike of the New Year Kills At Least Six People

In the first United States drone strike of the new year, at least six people were reported to be killed on January 4. The strike came as Pakistan killed at least 31 alleged “militants” in an offensive the US has been helping the country’s military forces wage against militant groups the US has long maintained are using Afghanistan border regions as havens.

The Pakistan-based Dawn reported, “Sources says that the drone targeted a compound belonging to an Uzbek commander of the Taliban’s Hafiz Gul Bahadur group. The area which was hit is the Wacha Basti village near Alwara Mandi in Datakhel.”

“Sources added that a high-value target may have been killed in the strike but his identity could not be ascertained yet,” the report added. “Fear and panic gripped the area as drones were seen flying above in the skies after the attack.”

According to Pakistan Today, “The strike targeted the stronghold of prominent warlord Hafiz Gul Bahadur, as well as the nearby base of an Uzbek commander in North Waziristan, one of seven semi-autonomous tribal districts that border Afghanistan.”

An anonymous official from Pakistan was quoted by the New York Times and claimed the Uzbek commander targeted was known as Usman. The strike killed “six Uzbek militants.” Two other “militants” were wounded. But the official did not confirm whether “Usman” had been in the compound when the attack occurred.

The Pakistani military claimed to have destroyed “four terrorist hide-outs and a training center for suicide bombers” with “fighter jet strikes” in the “remote Tirah Valley” on Saturday, according to the Times.

It is well-known that CIA drone strikes are drawing the US further into a war against groups, which the Pakistan government is fighting.

Many of the alleged militants being killed are not individuals who can be said to pose any imminent threat to citizens in the continental United States and yet the CIA continues to target and assassinate them in a dirty war being waged completely in the shadows.

Also, it is unclear who is really being killed. Jack Serle of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported that the Bureau’s “Naming the Dead” project had found “only 30 of the 104 reported killed in drone strikes in Pakistan” in 2014 had been identified.

Serle explained the lack of information on those killed in US drone strikes:

…All but two strikes this year have hit areas where the Pakistan army is fighting various armed groups based in the Fata. It has been almost impossible for journalists to move and report independently from these areas, according to Rahimullah Yousufzai, a prominent Pakistani journalist. International journalists cannot travel anywhere in the Fata without permission from the government. Pakistani journalists can travel into the area but generally do not because it is extremely dangerous – especially when the army is carrying out an offensive.

Fifteen of the 22 attacks this year have hit North Waziristan, one of seven so-called tribal agencies that make up Pakistan’s Fata. One other strike hit in Khyber agency where the Pakistan Army has begun a new operation offensive. Three more attacks may have been in North Waziristan – they hit targets in the isolated Shawal area that straddles the border between North and South Waziristan. The Shawal has also been a focus of the Pakistani Air Force in its ongoing offensive and is reported in the Pakistani press to be the final target for the Pakistan military operations…

But what the Bureau did manage to determine from data available is that, since June 2004, less than four percent of those killed in drone attacks have been “identified as members of al Qaeda.”



US media organizations, such as the New York Times, continue to use the word militants in headlines on reported US drone attacks without using scare quotes. They don’t bother to put “suspected” or “alleged” in the headline or, in this case, note who is “saying” that “6 Militants” were killed.

Both the US and the Pakistan military have fought to create the perception that terrorists are primarily being killed in these strikes. From leaked intelligence reports, reports by human rights organizations and data compiled from news reports, it is abundantly clear that only a tiny percentage of the individuals killed have been what could be considered al Qaeda terrorists.

The public also knows, thanks to the Times, that Obama “embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.”

Media organizations, which do not use the appropriate language to report on US drone attacks, are, in effect, printing CIA propaganda. They are publishing unconfirmed reports as fact when unnamed Pakistani officials are taken at their word and US secrecy is overlooked. They are reporting on who they believe the US and Pakistan have killed, not the people who were actually killed.

Creative Commons-Licensed Photo by drsmith7383; Edited by JR/Truthout

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."