Dataset: The US aerial campaign continues in Yemen in its fifteenth year.
The events detailed here occurred in 2015. These have been reported by US or Pakistani government, military and intelligence officials, and by credible media, academic and other sources, including on occasion Bureau researchers. Below is a summary of CIA drone strikes and casualty estimates for 2015. Please note that our data changes according to our current understanding of particular strikes. Below represents our present best estimate.
CIA strikes – Obama 2015
|Total CIA drone strikes||13
|Total reported killed:||60-85|
|Civilians reported killed:||2-5|
|Children reported killed:||0|
|Total reported injured:||25-32|
See the Pakistan drone strike database for all strikes under President Bush, 2004 to January 2009.
January 4 2015
♦ 6-10 reported killed
The first CIA strike of 2015 killed at least six and as many as 10 people. The dead were initially reportedly Uzbeks and members of the Pakistan Taliban (TTP) associated group loyal to veteran commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur.
However al Qaeda subsequently confirmed Qari Imran (aka Qari Ubaidullah) was killed in the strike. The strike also killed Mohammed Ashraf Dar (right) from Indian Kashmir. News of Dar’s death did not emerge until November 2015 when his family revealed he had featured in an al Qaeda propaganda film and had been killed in a drone strike in Pakistan.
There were early, sepculative reports Bahadur may have died in the strike. His group is responsible for cross-border attacks against US and allied troops. His death, if confirmed, would be considered a major success for the CIA’s drone programme.
The strike hit in the early hours, reportedly targeting one or two houses, as well as possibly a vehicle. The strike “targeted a base of an Uzbek commander known as Usman, killing six Uzbek militants. Two militants are wounded,” a Pakistan security official told the New York Times. It was not clear if Usman was in the building at the time of the attack.
The location of the strike was unclear – it reportedly hit in either the Datta Khel area or the Shawal area of North Waziristan. The Pakistani government condemned the attack.
January 15 2015
♦ 5-7 reported killed
♦ 2 reported civilians
The civilian casualty figures included in this summary are based on the following reports: President Barack Obama (Bureau)
The second strike of the year killed 5-7 people in a strike on a house. The CIA drones reportedly hit the building with two missiles, setting it on fire.
Ahmed Farouq, a US citizen and senior al Qaeda leader, was confirmed killed by the White House in a January 2015 drone strike. President Obama said Farouq was killed in the same strike as two hostages of al Qaeda: Italian Giovanni Lo Porto and American Dr Warren Weinstein. According to Dawn, an Usted Ahmed Farouq was killed in this strike. Confusingly, al Qaeda said he was a Pakistani and al Qaeda Asia’s deputy leader. It appears the Farouq first reported killed by Dawn was the same as US citizen and senior figure in al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent.
Weinstein and Lo Porto had spent years in captivity when they were killed. Obama issued a public apology to their families in April and launched an investigation into the circumstances of their death. In September 2015 it emerged the CIA’s inspector-general was investigating the circumstances around what the Washington Post described as a “surveillance lapse”. The CIA reportedly detected a Western hostage held by al Qaeda in Pakistan a year before this strike, but “did not keep the person under drone surveillance”.
January 15 2015
♦ 4-7 reported killed
♦ 3-4 injured
A second strike of the day killed 4-7 people according to anonymous Pakistani sources. At least two of the dead were reportedly Uzbeks. According to Express Tribune five people died when the strike hit and two more later succumbed to injuries sustained in the attack.
One unnamed Pakistan security official told AFP: “Two Uzbek and three local militants were killed in the drone strike.” Five others killed in the attack were allegedly affiliated with a group led by Khan Said (aka Sajna), Dawn reported. Said was not believed to be present at the scene when the strike hit. He was a leading commander in the Mehsud tribe in South Waziristan, the paper added. He was part of the TTP but split after a leadership struggle following the death of Hakimullah Mehsud in November 2013.
January 19 2015
♦ 5-7 reported killed
♦ 4-6 injured
CIA drones targeted a house in Shawal area of North Waziristan killing five, six or seven people – including a US citizen.
On April 22 the White House publicly acknowledged it had killed three US citizens and an Italian in two drone strikes in January 2015. Adam Gadahn was killed, according to the White House press secretary, though he did not specify when. He said it was “likely in a separate U.S. Government counterterrorism operation” to the January 15 strike that killed two Americans, aid worker Warren Weinstein and al Qaeda member Ahmed Farouq, and Italian Giovani Lo Porto. Unnamed US officials told the New York Times Gadahn died on January 19.
Southern Californian Gadahn converted to Islam aged 17 reportedly left the US in the 1990s. He was indicted for treason in 2006 – the first such indictment in more than 50 years, the New York Times reported.
The identities of the dead was not immediately known however a senior Pakistani official said “non-Pakistani, foreign fighters” were among the dead and Taliban sources said the attack also killed local fighters associated with Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur. This was the third of four strikes to reportedly target Bahadur himself, or men loyal to him.
Initial reports said four people died in the attack, with an intelligence source told Reuters: “Through our local sources and intercepts, (we know) a drone fired two missiles at a compound in the Shawal area and killed four militants. The number of dead may go up.” The casualty counts have risen. In the days following the attack, more sources reported seven people perished. An unnamed senior government official told The News: “The drone fired four missiles at a militants’ compound in Shawal Valley. According to initial information, seven militants were killed and four injured.”
The Shawal has long been a stronghold for armed groups in North Waziristan because its steep valleys and thick woodland make it easily defensible. It appears the area has become more signficant for the armed groups since the Pakistan military operation in the area began last year, with the official told The News: “All the militant groups, including members of al Qaeda, had shifted to the mountainous Shawal Valley after the government launched a military operation against them in the plains of North Waziristan.”
The Pakistani government condemned the strike as a breach of sovereignty – a reiteration of its official position on the drone attacks.
Location: Shahi Khel, Shawal, North Waziristan
References: AFP, The News, Dawn, Associated Press, Reuters, NBC News, PTI, Xinhua/ARY News, The News, Express Tribune, ARY News, White House, New York Times
January 28 2015
♦ 6-7 reported killed
♦ 2-4 reported injured
Six or seven people were killed when CIA drones targeted a house in the Shawal area of North Waziristan.
There strike either flattened a house, destroying a vehicle within the structure’s courtyard. Or the drones targeted a vehicle as it drove to a domestic building. The dead were reportedly loyal to Hafiz Gul Bahdur however their identities of the dead were not known however AFP reported four were said to be local men and three foreigners. Their nationality was not clear however an unnamed official told the agency they were thought to be central Asians. Officials told Radio Free Europe’s Pashto service some of the dead were Uzbeks but could not say how many.
This was the fifth strike of the year and the fourth reported in the Shawal area of Pakistan’s tribal region. The Shawal is an area of steep, thickly wooded valleys. It has long been reported as a stronghold for the various armed groups in Pakistan. The steep valleys and thick woods of the area make it an unattractive for a ground assault. This would have been compounded by the heavy covering of snow there, according to AFP.
The Pakistan military has been slowly moving ground forces through North Waziristan since it began its incursion in June 2014. Both US and Pakistani air strikes have hit the Shawal however it appeared it continue to be occupied by hostile armed groups into 2015.
This latest drone strike came the day after the Pakistan military claimed its jets had killed 76 alleged militants in strikes in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan. The strikes reportedly targeted the TTP as Lashkar e Islam, a violent extremist group that historically was distinct from the TTP though that line may have blurred by the time of this drone strike.
March 18 2015
♦ 3 people reported killed
A US drone strike killed Khawrey Mehsud, a senior commander in the Pakistan Taliban (TTP), a TTP spokesman has confirmed.
Mehsud died alongside Umar and Talwar, according to the TTP spokesman. The attack hit in the Shabak area of Kurram agency, adjacent to North Waziristan. There was some confusion where the strike hit with one source said it hit “on the Afghan side of the border, opposite to Pakistan’s Shabak area in Kurram Agency”.
Mehsud was described as “very close to martyred [TTP] chief Baitullah Mehsud and was his personal bodyguard.” Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a CIA drone strike in 2009, two years after founding the TTP. Khawrey was from Sararogha in South Waziristan and reportedly had been a Taliban member since he was a child. He reportedly had fought in Afghanistan and in Pakistan.
April 12 2015
♦ 4 people reported killed
♦ 2 people reported injured
Four people were reportedly killed in the first CIA drone strike in Pakistan for 25 days.
None of the dead were identified but they were thought to belong to the Sajna faction of the Pakistan Taliban. They died when two missiles reportedly flattened a building in the thickly forested valleys of the Shawal area.
Some sources reported the strike hit in South Waziristan. The Shawal area straddles the border between South and North Waziristan, and it crosses the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The attack reportedly hit before dawn, which was approximately 5.30am. This was around the same time or shortly before a strike at around 6am killed three people in Afghanistan’s Kunar province area.
May 16 2015
♦ 4-7 people reported killed
♦ 2 reported injured
Between four and seven people were reportedly killed in a drone strike on a domestic compound reportedly being used by the Pakistan Taliban.
The dead were unnamed however various media outlets quoted unnamed officials claiming both Pakistanis and foreigners were killed.
This was the first strike for 34 days. It was the eighth strike this year and the sixth on the Shawal area. It came the day after Pakistan Air Force jets reportedly killed 15 people in the Shawal. The Pakistani military was reportedly preparing for a major offensive in the isolated region that has long been reportedly the home to a variety of armed groups.
The Shawal is also said to be a common smuggling route into Afghanistan. It straddles the boundaries between North and South Waziristan as well as Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Reuters reported between four and seven people were killed in the drone strike. “According to internal conversations of the militants, members of the Punjabi Taliban and foreign militants believed to be Arabs were killed in the drone strike,” an unnamed security official in Miranshah told the agency.
However two unnamed Pakistani officials told the Associated Press five people were killed, three of them Uzbeks and two Pakistani. An “important militant commander” was reportedly killed.
This strike came the day after Reuters reported the Pakistan army was preparing to launch an assault on the Shawal area. “It is a massive military action against the Taliban militants and their allies in the Shawal mountains,” according to an unnamed government official. A telephone engineer in the Shawal, Zainhullah, said: “Hundreds of trucks and pickups full of soldiers and weapons… are moving towards Shawal… There are roadblocks everywhere, no one can come in or go out. There is a complete curfew and phones lines are also being cut.” Several military officials told Reuters the Pakistani military had requested help from Afghanistan to prevent militants from fleeing over the border.
The Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the CIA drone strike, saying in a statement: “We condemn such strikes which are a clear violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. These generate distrust among the local populace at a time when Operation Zarb e Azab is moving ahead decisively and the focus of the Government is shifting towards rehabilitation of the civilian population. We reiterate our call for a cessation of such strikes.”
May 18 2015
♦ 3-6 reported killed
♦ 2-3 people injured
CIA drones reportedly destroyed a residential compound in the Shawal area hours after the Pakistan government condemned the last drone strike in that area. At least three and as many as six people were killed.
The drones hit at night in the same region as an attack on May 16 that Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned on May 18, saying such strikes “generate distrust among the local populace”. It repeated this statement after this strike.
The Shawal area crosses the North and South Waziristan and Pakistan and Afghanistan borders. Its forested valleys reportedly host several armed groups and has been targeted by seven strikes so far this year.
The Pakistan military was reportedly preparing to send troops into the Shawal, 11 months after the army began operation Zarb e Azb – its ongoing military operation in North Waziristan. However the scale and progress of the army’s reported push into the Shawal were unclear, Reuters reported. The area however was off limits to journalists with roads blocked and telephone cables cut.
It emerged after this strike that Turkish national Burak Karlier (above) was killed in a US drone strike in Waziristan in May. Terrorist propaganda said he was killed on May 24 in Waziristan. This was the closest strike to that date. Karlier, 29, was from Konya in southern Turkey. His euology said he fought with al Qaeda in Afghanistan against the US having fought in the Chechen war against Russia.
June 1 2015
♦ 4-5 people killed
Four or five people were killed in a CIA drone strike in the Shawal area of North Waziristan. The attack hit the same day Pakistan Air Force jets reportedly killed 10-22 people in nearby Datta Khel.
The strike reportedly hit a vehicle or residential compound with two missiles late in the evening of June 1. The identities of the dead was not immediately clear. However an unnamed Pakistani security official told AFP: “At least five militants were killed in the drone strike. Three of them are said to be Uzbek and two Pakistani Taliban militants. Two other Pakistani militants are injured.” And Express Tribune ambiguously reported “official sources claimed there were mostly foreigners among those killed”.
Intelligence official said “several drones were reportedly flying over the border of North and South Waziristan Agency in Shawal valley since evening,” according to Dawn.
June 6 2015
♦ 7-9 people killed
♦ 0-3 women reported killed
♦ 4 reported injured
The civilian casualty figures included in this summary are based on the following reports: Tribal sources and security sources (The News International)
CIA drones reportedly destroyed buildings and vehicles in the second strike of the month. At least seven people were reportedly killed.
The initial reports of the attack were contradictory, disagreeing over where the strike hit and how many people were killed. However it seemed highly likely civilians died, with tribal and security sources telling The News International three women perished. A further government source told the paper some members of the armed groups in North Waziristan are with their families “and it is possible the drone killed women as well.”
Different sources gave different armed groups were targeted. The dead were locals, according to local villagers. They were members of the Afghan Taliban or Haqqani Network, according to local intelligence officials. A government official said the dead were from the Punjabi Taliban. And a security official said: “Through intercepts, we learned that Taliban fighters in their internal communication said that nine people had become flowers, meaning they had died, and four others were injured.”
Most sources reported a single domestic building was destroyed. However “officials in the civil administration” said two domestic buildings hit by two missiles, two more missiles fired at vehicles destroying them as occupants of the buildings tried to escape.
The location of the attack was not immediately clear. Most sources said the strike hit in the Shawal area of North Waziristan. However tribal sources said the strike hit in Khawaja Qadar in the neighbouring Datta Khel district. And a Pakistani security official said the strike hit in Khawaja Qadar in Afghanistan.
Location: Zoya Saidgai, Shawal, North Waziristan or Khawaja Qadar, Datta Khel tehsil, North Waziristan
References: The News International, Daily Times, Xinhua, AFP, Anadolu Agency, Dawn, Express Tribune
August 6 2015
♦ 4-7 reported killed
♦ 2-3 reported injured
The first CIA drone strike in 61 days killed at least four people. The attack reportedly destroyed a house near the town of Datta Khel, targeting an apparent Haqqani Network meeting.
Several sources said the dead were Haqqani Network fighters, though The News reported the identity of the dead could not be ascertained as communications around the location of the strike were disrupted. However unnamed locals tribesmen told the paper the dead were foreign fighters leaving open the possibility the men were Afghans and potentially members of the Haqqani Network.
Pakistan condemned the strike saying it was “in disregard of our territorial sovereignty and international law”. The statement said: “These events also generate distrust among the local populace. We reiterate our call for cessation of such strikes.”
September 1 2015
♦ 5-6 reported killed
♦ 4 people injured
CIA drones killed five or six people in a strike at around 11pm local time. The attack destroyed part of a house and reportedly killed up to three foreigners believed to be Uzbeks.
Two Pakistani intelligence officials said the targeted house belonged to fighters loyal to an Afghan warlord and was used by Uzbeks. A local tribesman in the Datta Khel area told The News: “The drone fired two missiles at a house believed to be in the use of foreign militants. Six people were killed on the spot and four others suffered injuries.”
There were conflicting accounts of exactly where the strike hit – reports placed the attack in two adjacent areas. Some sources said it was in the Shawal area – a region of thick woodland and steep valleys. It is apparently the last refuge of armed groups in North Waziristan after Pakistan’s ongoing, 14-month long offensive in the tribal area. The Pakistan military moved into the Shawal to clear it of armed groups two weeks before this strike. Other sources said the strike hit in the Datta Khel sub-division of North Waziristan – an area already said to have been cleared of fighters by the Pakistan military.
Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement repeating its condemnation of the drone strikes as violations of territorial sovereignty and international law. It said the attack hit “around 2.5km from the Pakistan-Afghanistan border” and called “for cessation of such strikes”.
Location: Karwanda village, Manzarkhel area, Dattakhel sub-division, or Lawara Banga area of Shawal valley, North Waziristan agency
References: Associated Press, AFP, The News, Pakistan Tribune, Dawn, Geo TV, Reuters, MoFA, Express Tribune
Pakistan Air Force Strike
September 18 2015
♦ 8-9 reported killed
♦ 8-9 civilians reported killed, including 3-6 children
♦ 1 child reported injured
It seemed the first US drone strike in South Waziristan since January 2015 had killed at least seven people. However it transpired eight or nine civilians were killed in a Pakistan Air Force strike. This emerged thanks to further investigation by Reuters, Dawn and Radio Mashaal, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Pakistani partner organisation.
According to Dawn, local residents said the house of a suspected militant Abdul Manan Mehsud was attacked “in which three women, four girls and two boys were killed”.
The strike was reportedly by jets. It targeted a house and left eight civilians dead, including three children. Naimat Ullah told Reuters: “The house next to my house was completely destroyed.” His son was injured by flying shrapnel. Neighbours excavated the bodies and told Ullah that three young girls, three men and two women were killed in the strike, he added. A relative of Abdul Manan Khan – the owner of the destroyed house – confirmed the civilian casualties.
Radio Mashaal, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Pakistan partner, reported a bomb attack by Pakistan Air Force jets and helicopters left eight civilians dead and one boy was injured. This was according to anonymous officials and a relative of a survivor.
The strike hit shortly after at least 42 people were killed in a Taliban attack on a Pakistan Air Force base in Peshawar. Thirteen Taliban fighters were killed by security forces in the battle. Sixteen people praying in a mosque were killed in the assault.
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