Pakistan protests after deadly drone strike and release of CIA Agent

Pakistan protests at release of Raymond Davis

Twenty-four hours after the release of CIA man Raymond Davis, a US drone strike has killed more than 40 people, mostly civilians, in North Waziristan.  Protests and a nationwide strike have been called for Friday.

CIA ‘contractor’ Raymond Davis was released from prison after the murder charges against him were dropped following the payment of ‘blood money’ to relatives of the victims.  Davis, named by The Guardian as a CIA spy,  had shot dead two men  –  Faizan Haider and Mohammad Faheemin – in  disputed circumstances in Lahore.  A third man, Muhammad Yameen, was killed by a US embassy car speeding to the scene to rescue Davis.  The widow of Mohammad Faheemin, Shumaila Kanwal,committed suicide soon after.

The killings caused outrage in Pakistan coming on top of the hated CIA drone strikes and there were public demonstrations calling for Davis to be hanged.  Meanwhile the US put enormous pressure on Pakistan to release Davis arguing that he had diplomatic status.  Aid budgets were threatened and the drone strikes were halted – at least for the first month of his incarceration – in an attempt not to further inflame anger.

Wednesday’s  agreement to accept the multi-million dollar compensation by relatives of the dead men was apparently done under duress, with the family’s lawyer under detention.  The relatives have now left Pakistan and disappeared.

Thursday’s drone strike, on a tribal meeting near Miranshah, in which 41 people are known to have died, (some reports suggesting  up to 80 victims) has been condemned by many including the Pakistan army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayaniv.  As Jason Ditz of reports:

The casualties from the attack included six tribal elders who were overseeing the jirga, which was apparently to discuss the ownership of mineral rights, a number of children who were brought by their families to the gathering, and several members of a pro-government militia the tribe helped organize.

The US has announced that it will close its embassy on Friday in anticipation of nationwide protests.

US drone strikes resume in Pakistan

The Washington Post  reported today (Feb 21st) that out of 118 CIA drone strikes in Pakistan only 13 ‘High Value Targets’ had been killed, of which only two were on the US’ Most Wanted list.  According to the New American Foundation it is estimated that a total of 607 people were killed in US drones strikes in Pakistan in 2010.  Interestingly the Post report also states that each drone strike in Pakistan costs the CIA £1m!    

The press report comes as two separate drone strikes in Pakistan reportedly killed eleven people .  These are the first drone strikes in Pakistan in almost a month, a gap which many attribute to the US attempts to free Raymond Davis, an alleged CIA spy accused of killing two men in Lahore in mid-January.    For more about the Davis case see this report from the Guardian.

The ‘DC Exile’ blog has some interesting reflections on the legality of US drone strikes following last week’s Newsweek interview with the former CIA counsel , John Rizzo, who authorised drone strikes in Pakistan.   They suggest that the revelation that once identified, a targeted individual may be subject to the use of force at any time thereafter calls into question one of the US stated legal justification for drone strikes:

“such continuous targetability calls into question the ability of the United States to rely on self-defense as one of its two legal justifications for its targeted killing program. Strikes against these continuously targetable individuals would then only be lawful within the context of an armed conflict. Any targeted killing outside of an armed conflict or valid self-defense would be an illegal, extrajudicial execution.”

It’s well worth reading the whole post.

Meanwhile Radio One’s ‘Newsbeat’ programme secured an interview with 15 year old Sadaullah Wazir who lost both his legs and an eye in US drone strike in North Waziristan (as well as members of his family).  He is currently attempting to sue the CIA.  You can see short video of the interview here

In Afghanistan NATO have launched an investigation  after the Governor of Konar province said 65 people including 22 women and more than 30 children were killed in a NATO operation.  Most reports suggest the attacks were carried out by NATO helicopters but the Washington Post says a Predator drone was also involved

PS…..    Drone Wars UK – Mini Tour

I’m doing a few speaking gigs over the next few weeks on drones – do come along if you are in the area.

Sun 27th Feb,  7pm         Porthmadog FoR – Y Ganolfan, Porthmadog  :  Details here

Mon 28th Feb, 7.30pm    Caermarfon FoR  – vestry of Salem chapel, Caernarfon:  Details here

Tues 1st Mar:  7.30pm   Oxford Stop the War – Town Hall, Oxford:  Details here

Mon 14th Mar:  8pm –  Friends Meeting House, Queens Road Leicester CND AGM

Thur 14th Apr: 7.30pm – Public Meeting, Friends Meeting House, Bristol

Sat 14th May, 2pm – FoR Scotland Annual Conference

US spy arrest halts drone strikes in Pakistan as Al-Qaeda steal Predator drone

Activist group 'Pasban Pakistan' protest against American diplomatic Raymond Davis at the Karachi Press Club in Pakistan. Davis, is under investigation for the double murder of two Pakistani motorcyclists in Karachi, Pakistan.

In Pakistan drone strikes seem to have ceased since 23rd January. While there have been pauses in drone strikes in Pakistan before, there has been speculation that this latest pause is connected to diplomatic efforts to secure the release of Raymond Davis a US citizen who shot and killed two Pakistan men in disputed circumstances. It has been alleged that Davis is a US spy – the US say that he is a member of the US Embassy staff and has diplomatic immunity. For background to the case see this Washington Post piece.

Meanwhile AFP has reported the crash of a Predator drone in Yemen this week in which the wreckage, initially collected by the police, was then hijacked and taken away by Al-Qaeda gunman. (Rather strangely are recommending that AQAP sell the drone to the Chinese.)  Yemen authorities later denied that a Predator had crashed.  The Yemen Times rather cleverly reported both the crash and the denial and then reminded its readers that last year a Wikileaks cable revealed that Yemen had deliberately covered up the crash of a US Scan Eagle drone in Yemen.

In the UK, the Highlands and Islands Enterprise agency has proposed that the Hebrides be used as a place for testing unmanned drones. While the agency is headlining the fact that such drones would be used for civilian use, the proposal has presented to Peter Luff, UK defence minister and the testing range is currently being run by arm giant QinetiQ