A US drone strike in Yemen on Thursday (5th May), was an attempt to assassinate US-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, said to be head of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Two Saudi brothers were killed in the strike but Al-Awlaki apparently escaped. Al-Awlaki has been placed on a list of people approved for targeted killing by President Obama. This was unusual in that he was a US citizen. Ai-Awlaki’s father and the US civil rights group ACLU have attempted to have him removed from the list but failed.
On Friday (6th May) four US drones attacked a compound in North Waziristan killing at least 17 people. While most press reports concentrated on the fact that this was the first drone strike in Pakistan since the killing of Bin Laden, it is also the first strike since Imran Khan threatened further civil disobedience against NATO supply routes if drone strikes did not cease.
Meanwhile drone proliferation continues as military companies push drones in Africa, Europe, South America and India. As we have reported previously, Israel is a key exporter of drones and drone technology and a recent report suggests that they are currently negotiating to sell – or perhaps rent – Heron drones to Angola. The report also suggests that Kenya may be a future customer.
In Europe, defence industry officials are pressing governments and companies to “get on with it” and push forward with developing the next generation of drones. BAE Systems CEO told shareholders at the companies AGM to expect a decision on development of a new Anglo-French drone within the next six months. In India, development work on an autonomous combat drone has begun. India’s Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) told press that the aim is to develop the UCAV within seven to eight years .
In Latin America, at least 11 countries are using surveillance drones with many drones flying over other nations territories and borders. Most, if not all, the drones have come from Israeli companies or been built with Israeli technology. The proliferation has led to calls for a ‘code of conduct’ to prevent the arming of drones and it will be interesting to see if this is taken up.