31.08.14 Drone Warfare

August 2014 Update: US covert actions in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia

US Predator drone (Doctress Neutopia via Flickr)

Pakistan military offensive against the Taliban continues.

Two possible US drone strikes in Yemen, bringing seven-week pause in reported US attacks to an end.

The seventh successive month without a reported US attack in Somalia.

Pakistan

August 2014 actions

Total CIA strikes in August: 1
Total killed in strikes in August: 5-7


All actions 2004 – August 31 2014

Total Obama strikes: 339
Total US strikes since 2004: 390
Total reported killed: 2,347-3,796
Civilians reported killed: 416-957
Children reported killed: 168-202
Total reported injured: 1,099-1,660
For the Bureau’s full Pakistan databases click here.

A CIA drone strike in Pakistan killed at least five people and injured two or three more. The strike reportedly occurred in the Datta Khel region of North Waziristan.

None of those killed have been named. Intelligence sources reportedly said “most” of the dead were “foreigners”, though the identity of those killed “could not be ascertained”.

Most reports stated that five were killed on August 6 when a drone fired two missiles at a house. However one report said six died when four missiles were fired at a house and a vehicle, and other reports counted seven killed. This was the fourth drone strike to hit Datta Khel in 2014.

The drone strike casualty rate for August (5) is less than half that of last month’s casualty rate (10.7). In July, 32 people died in three strikes during the bloodiest month for drone strikes in Pakistan since July 2012.

Pakistan is now two months into an offensive aimed at driving the Taliban out of the country. At the beginning of August Islamabad was “bracing” itself for a wave of protests, after the military had to secure the capital during threats of attacks by militant groups.

A Pakistani drone, which was being used for surveillance in eastern Punjab, reportedly crashed at the beginning of the month as it tried to land. Reports said no one was injured.

11 alleged Taliban members were reportedly killed as they attacked air force bases in the west Pakistan city of Quetta on August 15. Four days later, the military claimed to have killed 48 suspected militants in a helicopter raid on militant hideouts in the Khyber and North Waziristan tribal regions.

On August 28 prime minister Nawaz Sharif were named by police in Pakistan as a suspect in a murder case. The allegations of abetting murder are registered against Sharif, his brother and 19 other defendants over the killing of supporters of a cleric in June. Cleric Tahir ul Qadri has been leading anti-government demonstrations in Islamabad, protesting against alleged voting fraud.

Yemen

August 2014 actions

Confirmed US drone strikes: 0
Further reported/possible US strike events: 2
Total reported killed in US operations: 6
Civilians reported killed in US strikes: 0


All actions 2002 – August 31 2014*

Confirmed US drone strikes: 65-77
Total reported killed: 339-494
Civilians reported killed: 64-83
Children reported killed: 7
Reported injured: 78-196

Possible extra US drone strikes: 97-116
Total reported killed: 324-515
Civilians reported killed: 24-48
Children reported killed: 6-9
Reported injured: 87-120

All other US covert operations: 14-79
Total reported killed: 150-386
Civilians reported killed: 60-89
Children reported killed: 25-27
Reported injured: 22-115
Click here for the full Yemen data.

* All but one of these actions have taken place during Obama’s presidency. Reports of incidents in Yemen often conflate individual strikes. The range we have recorded in US drone strikes and covert operations reflects this.

A seven-week pause in attacks ended on August 9 with two possible US drone strikes in Yemen, killing six people.

The first possible US drone strike killed three people in the central Marib province. An unnamed military official told AFP that two women were injured in the strike, which reportedly targeted a house belonging to a local man who was renting it to three men from the north western province of Saada.

The strike came a day after AQAP fighters reportedly beheaded 14 captured Yemeni soldiers. They were killed because they were fighting AQAP in the eastern province of Hadramout, the armed group said in a statement. And the attack came the day before Yemen Air Force jets reportedly targeted al Qaeda training camps in the eastern province of Hadramout.

On August 16 a possible US drone strike in the eastern province of Hadramout also reportedly killed three suspected AQAP members. A local official told Reuters that “three armed men” were travelling in a vehicle when “the drone shot two rockets at them”.

A local military official reportedly said that the vehicle was heading towards an alleged military training camp, where “scores of al Qaeda militants” were gathering.

In addition, on August 16 there were two further possible US airstrikes in the southern province of Abyan. A Yemeni security official said that two separate airstrikes in the south killed seven suspected militants, but it is not clear if they were air or drone strikes and whether they were carried out by US forces or the Yemeni government.

Following the capture and beheading of 14 Yemeni soldiers by AQAP in Hadramout at the beginning of the month, Yemeni president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi vowed a relentless fight against AQAP. Violent clashes between AQAP and the Yemeni military continue in Hadramout province, with AQAP claiming to have killed 50 soldiers on August 7.

On August 23 AQAP planted a bomb on the road which links the two towns of Seiyun and Shibam in eastern Yemen, reportedly killing three soldiers. Four days later three alleged AQAP members were killed outside the town of Shibam when they reportedly attacked troops setting up a checkpoint.

Following the launch of US air strikes targeting the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq, AQAP called for attacks on the US in “solidarity with our Muslim brothers.”

This month an AQAP propaganda film alleged the groups deceased second-in-command, Saeed al Shehri, was killed by US drones in 2013, not 2012 as previously thought. The video was the third of a three-part documentary about his life and death and said al Shehri had survived several US attacks. He also ‘was prisoner number 327 at Guantanamo Bay, captured as he tried to cross the border into Pakistan from Afghanistan late in 2001.’

Somalia

August 2014 actions

Total reported US operations: 0

All actions 2007 – August 31 2014

US drone strikes: 5-8
Total reported killed: 10-24
Civilians reported killed: 0-1
Children reported killed: 0
Reported injured: 2-3

All other US covert operations: 8-11
Total reported killed: 40-141
Civilians reported killed: 7-47
Children reported killed: 0-2
Reported injured: 11-21
Click here for the Bureau’s full data on Somalia.

For the seventh successive month there were no reported US operations in Somalia.

Amisom and Somali forces were expected to begin a new drive to push al Shabaab out of territory they hold, according to Somalian President Hassan Sheikh Mohammed.

Al Shabaab spokesman, Abdulaziz Abu Musab, claimed the group killed three policemen in a suicide explosion in the north of the country at the beginning of the month. On August 15, 14 were killed when Somali forces and Amison launched an offensive against al Shabaab in a suburb of Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital.

A week later Lydia Wanyoto, acting special envoy of the African Union to Somalia, announced that the “roadmap” for Amison would be adhered to and troops would pull out of the country in 2016.

Other news from the drone war

An Amnesty International report found that the US military has a “poor” record for investigating war crimes and prosecuting suspected perpetrators in Afghanistan. In nine out of 10 incidents that Amnesty believes “raise concerns about the unlawful use of force” the US appears to have made little effort to document or record what happens, with eyewitnesses to the nine attacks saying they had never spoken to US military investigators.

The Bureau published an interactive timeline showing the growing number of voices calling for transparency on the US’s use of drones. The 20th call for transparency was from a report of the UN Secretary-General which recommended “improving transparency… and developing a robust oversight and accountability mechanism for targeted strikes outside active battlefields.”

Naming the Dead

Bureau reporter Jack Serle talked about the difficulty of identifying those killed in drone strikes with HuffPost Live,  for their “Always at War” web series.  The identities of less than one in three of those killed in drone strikes in Pakistan have been established by Naming the Dead, with some of those only identified by a single source.

Pakistani publication Dawn used data from Naming the Dead to create an infographic highlighting how little we know about drone strikes.

Follow Victoria Parsons on Twitter.

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