A special report by the The Mail on Sunday claims new evidence of the horrific impact and scale of US drone attacks in Pakistan. A dossier reportedly put together by a human rights lawyer claims horrifying stories of civilian deaths and casualties.
According to The Mail on Sunday, the dossier was put together by Shahzad Akbar of the Pakistan's Foundation for Fundamental Rights and the British human rights charity Reprieve.
The dossier has been filed in two court cases and will be used in murder investigations concerning alleged involvement of two US officials who reportedly ordered strikes. The Mail on Sunday reports that the officials have been identified as Jonathan Banks, a former head of the CIA's Islamabad station and John A. Rizzo, a CIA legal officer.
The Mail on Sunday reports Akbar said: "We have statements from a further 82 victims’ families relating to more than 30 drone strikes. This is their only hope of justice."
A report that appears to corroborate the claims of widespread civilian deaths come from Stanford and New York Universities. The report claims that between 2,562 and 3,325 people have been killed since US drone strikes began in Pakistan in 2004. Of the number are 881 civilians, including 176 children. Only 41 of the victims are considered "high value" terrorist targets, The Mail on Sunday reports.
But these figures are uncertain because the areas in question are the regions along the Pakistani frontier that are not accessible to journalists. While the relatives of victims of documented cases all claim that their relatives were not militants, US officials maintain those killed were militants who launch attack on NATO forces from Pakistan across the border into Afghanistan.
President Obama acknowledged the attacks for the first time in January, saying: "This is a targeted, focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists, who are trying to go in and harm Americans."
The first of the two cases filed has been heard by an Islamabad court. The court is expected to make its judgment very soon. If Akbar's petition to the court is granted, an international arrest warrant will be issued through the Interpol against the CIA officials, The Mail on Sunday reports.
The second case in Peshawar involves civilian families of alleged victims who are seeking a ruling that all further strikes in Pakistani airspace be declared "acts of war" against Pakistan.
According to The Mail on Sunday, Karim Khan, a journalist and translator with masters degrees is the plaintiff. His family comes from a village called Machi Khel in the region of North Waziristan. According to Khel, his eldest son Zahinullah, 18, and his brother, Asif Iqbal, 35, were killed at about 9:30 p.m. on New Year's Eve, 2009 by a Hellfire missile from a drone while they were at dinner table. Khan said:
"We are an educated family. My uncle is a hospital doctor in Islamabad, and we all work in professions such as teaching. We have never had anything to do with militants or terrorists, and for that reason I always assumed we would be safe... Zahinullah, who had been studying in Islamabad, had returned to the village to work his way through college, taking a part-time job as a school caretaker. He was a quiet boy and studious – always in the top group of his class."
According to The Mail on Sunday, some of the drone strikes in which people died were carried out in "signature strikes" that involve a drone operator sitting in front of a computer screen in the US and selecting a target when he thinks he has spotted something that does not look right. An unnamed intelligence official said: "It could be a vehicle containing armed men heading towards the border, and the operator thinks, 'Let’s get them before they get there,' without any idea of who they are. It could also just be people sitting together. In the frontier region, every male is armed but it doesn't mean they are militants."