United States drones kill Australian, New Zealander in Yemen


This video is called Drone attacks in Yemen mostly hit civilians.

By Tom Peters:

Australian, New Zealand citizens killed by US drone strike in Yemen

17 April 2014

The Australian reported yesterday that five people, including Australian citizen Christopher Harvard and dual Australian-New Zealand citizen Muslim bin John, were the victims of an extra-judicial killing by a US Predator drone in Yemen on November 19 last year. This is the first reported instance of Australians and New Zealanders being murdered by a drone.

According to the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 504 people have been killed since 2002 by American drone strikes in Yemen. This includes at least three US citizens: Anwar al-Awlaki, Samir Khan and 16-year-old Abdulrahman al-Awlaki. The Obama administration has greatly expanded the “targeted killing” program and asserted the right to kill anyone, in any part of the world, including US citizens.

Following yesterday’s revelations, Washington’s close allies in Canberra and Wellington both indicated their full support for the assassination of their own citizens. This sets a dangerous new precedent in the assault on democratic rights by Australian and New Zealand governments, both outside and within their own countries.

The Australian’s report stated that the primary targets were three “militants,” including Abu Habib, allegedly a leading figure in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and former associate of Osama bin Laden.

A “senior counter-terrorism source” told the paper that US authorities notified Australian officials after the drone strike, saying the Australian and NZ citizens were “collateral damage.” The same source described the men as “foot soldiers” for AQAP and said there was “a suggestion they were involved in kidnapping Westerners for ransom.” No evidence has been produced to substantiate these claims.

Harvard’s stepfather Neil Dowrick told the paper that his son went to Yemen in 2011 “to teach English.” The family was only informed of his assassination in December. His grandmother, Jeanette Harvard, said she had “heard three different stories” from government agencies about how her grandson was killed. She said the government told the family they would have to pay $40,000 to repatriate her grandson’s remains.

A spokesperson for Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop told the paper that she was “briefed on the situation last year” but so far no government minister has commented in public….

Bishop’s Department of Foreign Affairs today defended the drone strike. A spokesperson told Fairfax Media that being an Australian citizen was “not a protection” for people “engaging in potentially criminal activity overseas.”

New Zealand Prime Minister John Key described the assassination as “legitimate … given that three of the people killed were well known al-Qaeda operatives.” In other words, both governments accept and are complicit in Washington’s lawless operations—killing anyone it likes, without any semblance of due legal process, on mere suspicion of criminality.

In a chilling editorial today, the Australian fully endorsed the drone strike program, brushing aside the deaths of bin John and Harvard as “regrettable.” It admitted that “many” of the 3,300 people killed by drones in Pakistan and Yemen were “non-combatant civilians” but justified the murders on the basis that they prevented “the terrorists from committing even more atrocities.”

The Australian and New Zealand governments have not explained why the drone strike was kept secret from the public until now. Both claim that they had no prior knowledge of, or involvement in the strike, but this is highly unlikely. Australian and New Zealand intelligence agencies were undoubtedly informed, if not directly involved.

Last July, Fairfax Media revealed that Washington was “critically dependent” on the joint US-Australian spy base Pine Gap to pinpoint targets for drone assassinations in the Middle East. According to the reports, based on leaked information, there were “personnel sitting in airconditioned offices in central Australia directly linked, on a minute-by-minute basis, to US and allied military operations in Afghanistan and, indeed, anywhere else across the eastern hemisphere.”

Key yesterday told the media he was aware of bin John’s presence in Yemen last year and had personally signed a warrant for NZ’s spy agency, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB), to monitor him. Key claimed—without providing any evidence—that bin John had attended “some sort of terrorist training camp.”

The revelation that the GCSB was monitoring bin John before he was killed raises the question of whether they provided intelligence to their US counterparts, thus making the Key government an accomplice in the murder of its own citizen. Australia and New Zealand are part of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing alliance, which includes the US, Britain and Canada.

Until last August it was illegal for the GCSB to spy on NZ citizens and residents, but the law was changed—in the face of overwhelming public opposition—after a government-ordered review found that the agency had illegally spied on more than 85 people. The government can now lawfully spy on anyone it likes. It is not clear whether bin John was monitored before or after the law change.

Key used the revelations of the drone assassination to justify broadening the intelligence agency’s powers, telling reporters that it “shows … the things that I have been saying for quite some time—that we need our intelligence agencies to track our people, that there are New Zealanders who go and put themselves in harm’s way—have all been proven to be correct.”

New Zealand Green Party co-leader Russel Norman criticised Key for “saying it’s OK for foreign governments to execute New Zealanders offshore if they have beliefs about those New Zealand citizens holding views the US government doesn’t like.”

US drone strike kills 3 civilians in Yemen: here.

READ THE LEGAL MEMO USED TO KILL AN AMERICAN CITIZEN “‘This white paper sets forth the legal basis upon which the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) could use lethal force in Yemen against a United States citizen who senior officials reasonably determined was a senior leader of al-Qaida or an associated force of al-Qaida.’ So begins a 22-page, heavily redacted, previously top-secret document titled ‘Legality of a Lethal Operation by the Central Intelligence Agency Against a US Citizen,’ which provides the first detailed look at the legal rationale behind lethal operations conducted by the agency.” [Vice News]

Here’s What Drone Attacks in America Would Look Like: here.

Over 400 American drones have crashed since 2001, according to a Washington Post expose.

CIA in Yemen: here.

Former Australian Liberal Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser has been given prominent coverage in the Fairfax-owned press for his view that Australia should revise its interpretation of the ANZUS alliance with America, shut down US bases, including the crucial communications base at Pine Gap in central Australia, and end the stationing of US marines in Darwin: here.

NSA, Dutch military spy on millions of Somalis for drone attacks


This video says about itself:

Drone Strikes in Pakistan, Yemen & Somalia include targeting Rescuers and Funerals

US Drone Strike statistics based on research by a team of journalists of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism:

(As of October 10, 2012)

CIA Drone Strikes in Pakistan 2004 — 2012:

Total US strikes: 349
Obama strikes: 297
Total reported killed: 2,593-3,365
Civilians reported killed: 474-884
Children reported killed: 176
Total reported injured: 1,249-1,389

For latest Pakistan strike data click here.

US Covert Action in Yemen 2002 — 2012:

Total confirmed US operations (all): 52-62
Total confirmed US drone strikes: 40-50
Possible additional US operations: 119-138
Possible additional US drone strikes: 63-76
Total reported killed (all): 357-1,038
Total civilians killed (all): 60-163
Children killed (all): 24-34

For latest data from Yemen click here.

US Covert Action in Somalia 2007 — 2012:

Total US strikes: 10-23
Total US drone strikes: 3-9
Total reported killed: 58-170
Civilians reported killed: 11-57
Children reported killed: 1-3

For complete data on Somalia click here.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

Saturday 8 March 2014, 03:46 (Update: 08-03-14, 09:17 AM)

Dutch data may be used to carry out drone attacks on targets in Somalia. This turns out, according to NRC Handelsblad daily, from documents of the U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The Dutch Military Intelligence and Security Service(MIVD) intercepted the telephone messages of millions of Somalis and shared that information with the US American security service NSA.

From Snowden‘s documents it would appear that the Americans have no access to the local telephone network in Somalia. According to the NSA, the MIVD does have access to those data, the newspaper writes.

Civilians

The information from the MIVD according to NRC Handelsblad is used in the drone attacks on Somalia. The U.S. military is currently engaged in attacks on members of the terrorist group al- Shabaab. The drone attacks are controversial, as in those attacks often innocent civilians are killed as well.

The Dutch Department of Defense says Dutch information may be used in the attacks, but if at all, that would probably be to a very limited degree.

US drone strikes in Somalia part of drive to control Horn of Africa: here.

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Yemen wedding guests killed by US drone


This video is called Drone strike kills 15 wedding-goers instead of Al-Qaeda convoy in Yemen.

From Associated Press:

U.S. Drone May Have Killed Dozen Civilians In Yemen: Report

by KIMBERLY DOZIER

02/20/2014 11:59 am EST

WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. military drone strike in Yemen last December may have killed up to a dozen civilians on their way to a wedding and injured others, including the bride, a human rights group says. U.S. officials say only members of al-Qaida were killed, but they have refused to make public the details of two U.S. investigations into the incident.

Human Rights Watch released a report on the drone strike Thursday, citing interviews with eight witnesses and relatives of the dead as well as Yemeni officials. The report said four Hellfire missiles were fired at a wedding procession of 11 vehicles on Dec. 12, 2013, in Radda in southern Yemen, killing at least 12 men and wounding at least 15 others, six of them seriously.

The report said the procession “may have included members” of Yemen’s al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, “although it is not clear who they were or what was their fate.” Family members and survivors say all those hit were civilians; Yemeni officials told Human Rights Watch that most were militants.

“We asked both the Yemeni and the U.S. authorities to tell us which of the dead and wounded were members of militant groups and which if any were civilians,” report author Letta Tayler, a senior terrorism and counterterrorism researcher at Human Rights Watch, told The Associated Press. “They did not reply to this question.”

She added: “While we do not rule out the possibility that AQAP fighters were killed and wounded in this strike, we also do not rule out the possibility that all of those killed and wounded were civilians.”

The New York-based group called on the U.S. government to investigate and make the findings public.

A Pentagon spokesman, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, said he would not comment on specific operational details. …

The officials said the Pentagon can’t release details because both the U.S. military and the CIA fly drones over Yemen. By statute, the military strikes can be acknowledged, but the CIA operations cannot. The officials said that if they explain one strike but not another, they are revealing by default which ones are being carried out by the CIA.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the drone operations publicly.

The continued secrecy surrounding the drone program shows how the Obama administration has been slow to transfer the CIA drones over to the military’s Joint Special Operations Command nearly a year after Obama promised in a May 2013 speech to put the military largely in charge of lethal strikes and thereby make the program more transparent. Congress has objected to the transfer to the military, because the CIA can strike in countries where the military cannot — for instance, in countries that refuse to allow U.S. counterterrorist actions on its soil.

With the drone program in limbo, U.S. officials have simply continued to say nothing of the strikes, wherever they occur.

“The U.S. refusal to explain a deadly attack on a marriage procession raises critical questions about the administration’s compliance with its own targeted killing policy,” Tayler wrote in the report.

The local Yemeni governor and military commander called the strike a mistake and compensated the families of those killed and injured.

The Human Rights Watch report lists the names and ages of 12 men who witnesses said were killed in the attack, along with the names of six men who were seriously wounded.

According to the nonpartisan public policy institute New America Foundation, the U.S. has launched 99 drone strikes in Yemen since 2002.

A drone strike in Yemen in December may have killed civilians and violated Obama’s targeted killing policies: here.

US Drones: ‘Psychological torture’ from above and the resistance from below. Drone strikes in Yemen are ‘tearing apart the social fabric of some world’s poorest, most marginalized,’ says anti-drone organizer: here.

Yemen’s negotiated transition between the elite and the street: here.

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United States drones kill Yemen civilians


This video is called Drone attacks in Yemen mostly hit civilians.

From the Washington Post in the USA:

In Yemen, questions and anger over U.S. drone targets

By Abigail Hauslohner, Updated: Saturday, February 8, 3:03 PM

SANAA, Yemen — A drone-fired U.S. missile struck a car southeast of here on a winter night last year, killing two alleged al-Qaeda operatives who lived openly in their community. But it also killed two cousins who were giving the men a ride, and who the Yemeni government later said were innocents in the wrong place at the wrong time.

That incident, and other strikes that have followed, helped fuel anger here over civilian casualties from the U.S. drone campaign and what critics say is an even less-scrutinized problem: the targeting of suspects who are within the reach of the law.

The U.S. drone campaign in Yemen is aimed at rooting out al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which U.S. officials have called the most active and deadly of the organization’s wings. Drones have carried out at least 80 attacks since the start of 2011, according to the Long War Journal, which tracks U.S. counterterrorism efforts.

As the strikes continue, public outrage is rising in Yemen, where many people, including government officials, argue that they increase sympathy for al-Qaeda. In December, after a drone attack killed more than a dozen people in a rural wedding convoy, Yemen’s parliament passed a non-binding motion to ban the strikes.

Drones are “a tool for killing outside of the law,” said Ali Ashal, a member of parliament who represents a district where U.S. cruise missiles killed 41 people in 2009 but missed their alleged target, a high-ranking al-Qaeda officer who Ashal said was “moving freely throughout the area and would pass by checkpoints.”

But the feeble Yemeni government, riven by power struggles and corruption, relies on U.S. funding for support, and it allows the attacks. Yemeni politicians and experts say the government — which has struggled with domestic turmoil, weakened state institutions and deepening poverty since the 2011 uprising that ended former president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s rule — appears less inclined than ever to set limits on U.S. drones.

Yemen’s foreign minister, Abu Bakr al-Qirbi, told Reuters in September that drone strikes were a “necessary evil” in the country’s fight against terrorism and a “very limited affair.” At least four strikes have been carried out this year, according to local media.

The drone program in Yemen, where most strikes take place in remote areas, is cloaked in secrecy. Members of the president’s office declined to be interviewed about it, as did Yemen’s National Security Agency and its defense and interior ministries. The Pentagon also declined to comment.

The Obama administration has defended armed drones as precise tools that limit civilian casualties and risk to U.S. military personnel, and it has said it is investigating the attack on the wedding convoy. Asked about that strike in December, a State Department spokeswoman told reporters that the United States takes “every effort to minimize civilian casualties in counterterrorism operations.”

Political tool

Amid an absence of transparency, there is wide speculation in Yemen that drones — and the intelligence from Yemen that at least partly informs targets selected by the CIA or Pentagon — are used as tools of politics and convenience.

Many politicians, activists and analysts suspect that Yemeni security agencies prefer to identify suspects as eligible drone targets rather than arrest them — either to avoid a messy legal process or confrontation with a well-armed population where tribal loyalties run deep.

What’s more, a shadowy battle for power and influence has gripped Yemen since Saleh ceded control to his deputy, President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, in 2011. Saleh remains a powerful political force whose loyalists are said to crowd security agencies, and his rivals accuse him of manipulating intelligence on terrorist threats to eliminate enemies.

The murky political atmosphere has opened “the possibility that at different times, the United States is sort of being played — that different people give them intelligence and then ask the U.S. to carry out a strike — and then it turns out that the U.S. targeted a political rival,” said Gregory Johnsen, a Yemen expert and author of “The Last Refuge: Yemen, al-Qaeda, and America’s War in Arabia.”

Congress has been troubled enough by seemingly poor targeting and civilian casualties — such as the Yemen wedding deaths — that it has sought to block President Obama’s plan to shift control of the drone campaign from the CIA to the Pentagon.

Obstacles to detention

The alleged targets of the U.S. missile strike that killed Ali Saleh al-Qawili, a schoolteacher, and his cousin, Selim Hussein Ahmad, a university student, on Jan. 23, 2013, were hardly fugitives.

Rabia Laheb, a local councilman and an active supporter of al-Qaeda, and Naji Saad, a powerful general’s bodyguard, were well-known members of Saleh’s tribe and home town, 12 miles outside the capital, according to residents of their community. They passed regularly through checkpoints, and the road they traveled on the night they were killed was dotted with checkpoints, too, relatives of Qawili and residents said.

Why they were not detained is unclear. But they had turned against Saleh in Yemen’s 2011 popular uprising, and some in their community believe that may have made them drone targets.

Residents said Laheb had held meetings for al-Qaeda at his home. Two months before his death, a drone strike killed his close associate, suspected AQAP commander Adnan al-Qadhi. The watchdog organization Human Rights Watch said Qadhi “could have been captured rather than killed.”

In a speech on U.S. drone and counterterror policy last May, Obama said strikes are taken only when there is “near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured,” and he emphasized that the United States prefers to capture rather than kill terror suspects. But legal and military experts say it is rarely so simple.

In countries such as Yemen, the United States is unwilling to risk American troops by sending in commando units, experts say. Critics of U.S. drone operations have also accused the Obama administration of leaning on killing suspects outright since announcing plans to end detentions at Guantanamo Bay, because there is no obvious place to put captured suspects.

‘A useless war’

Critics say one result is civilian casualties. According to the Long War Journal, at least 116 people were killed in U.S. airstrikes in Yemen last year, about 15 percent of them civilians. Other monitoring groups cite higher figures.

Two months after the air strike that killed Qawili and Ahmad, Yemen’s Interior Ministry apologized in a letter to their families, saying that the cousins were innocent and that it was “their fate” to die that night. The men who paid them for a ride, the government said, were members of al-Qaeda.

The letter provided little solace to Qawili’s brother, Mohamed Ali Saleh al-Qawili, an Education Ministry bureaucrat. He formed a support group for drone victims’ families last year, and he said his quest for answers has proved illuminating.

“The bottom line is that they do not even go to the trouble of investigating, or seeing who is in a car, when [an intelligence] report is provided,” he said of the U.S. government.

Qawili said he was astonished by how many other Yemenis he met whose kin had become targets or collateral damage when their vehicles were moving in the vicinity of Yemeni army and police checkpoints, where they might have been arrested.

“This is a useless war,” he said. “And every time they kill an innocent person, they motivate the families to join al-Qaeda.”

Ali Al Mujahed in Sanaa contributed to this report.

Victims of US drones in Yemen demand justice: here.

Unnamed “senior US officials” have told the Associated Press that the Obama administration is “wrestling with whether to kill [a US citizen] with a drone strike and how to do so legally under its new stricter targeting policy”: here.

The Associated Press Monday published an extraordinary report based on deliberate leaks from senior US government officials announcing that the Obama administration is “wrestling with whether to kill [an unnamed US citizen] with a drone strike and how to do so legally under its new stricter targeting policy.” The targeted individual is alleged to be a terrorist residing “in a country that refuses US military action on its soil and that has proved unable to go after him.” The media subsequently carried various reports indicating that the individual is located in Pakistan: here.

Reporters Without Borders condemns well-known Yemeni human rights activist and blogger Feras Shamsan’s detention since 1 February, when he was arrested while covering Cairo’s International Book Fair: here.

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‘Extinct’ shark species rediscovered at fish market


Smoothtooth blacktip shark

From Scientific American:

Shark Species Thought to Be Extinct Found in Fish Market [Slide Show]

After more than a century, the smoothtooth blacktip shark has been rediscovered

By David Shiffman

After his 1902 trip to Yemen, scholar and naturalist Wilhelm Hein returned with a variety of plants and animals, which he donated to the Vienna Museum. One of these specimens, a shark, sat unnoticed for more than 80 years. In 1985 it was identified as the first (and only known) specimen of Carcharhinus leiodon, the smoothtooth blacktip shark. Because no others had ever been found by scientists, Alec Moore, regional vice chair of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Shark Specialist Group’s Indian Ocean group, says that “some suspected it might be extinct or not a valid species.”

In 2008, during a Shark Conservation Society research expedition to Kuwait’s sharq fish market (the name is a coincidence, it means east in Arabic), Moore says that “amongst the many species of whaler shark was one which looked very similar, but different, to a couple of other species.” Later analysis revealed that although this specimen was more than 3,000 kilometers from where Hein caught his, this was a smoothtooth blacktip, the first new individual seen by scientists in over a century.

>>View a slide show of shark species at fish markets

These sharks are currently considered “Vulnerable” to extinction by on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, an assessment that was made before their rediscovery by Dr. Moore and his team. More recent studies in fish markets throughout the region have located 47 additional smoothtooth blacktip sharks, greatly increasing what scientists know about this species with and reported in a 2013 paper in Marine & Freshwater Research. The new study included some of the first data on how large smoothtooth blacktips can grow, how many pups they can bear and their habitat usage as well as other information needed for an effective conservation and management plan in the future.

Shopping for species
Fish market surveys of the kind that resulted in the rediscovery of the smoothtooth blacktip are an increasingly common research tool that offers many advantages over traditional scientific field sampling. Julia Spaet, a researcher at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, says that “the resources dedicated by a fleet of fishermen will always outmatch any scientific efforts to assess abundances. In other words, the fishing industry is more efficient at finding sharks where there are not much left.”

These surveys are hard work. Researchers have to arrive before dawn, before the boats come in to land their catches. The species of interest have to be identified, counted, measured and sampled before they are sold to customers. When further study is required, researchers need to purchase the fishes themselves. This whole process can be, for lack of a technical term, disgusting. Moore says he “once made the mistake of climbing into a skip [waste bin] to sample a load of rays that had been festering in the sun; the response of my gastrointestinal tract to this was, as an understatement, memorably unfavorable.”

Surveys also offer challenges not faced by scientists who do field surveys, such as gaining fishermen’s trust. Moore says that “although sometimes bemused by what we are doing, they are generally very tolerant of weird foreigners poking around, and we’ve met some incredibly generous, funny and helpful people—we’ve even been given breakfast.”

Researchers have made many discoveries relevant to the conservation of threatened shark and ray species by studying the catches in fish markets in Kuwait, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Rima Jabado, a PhD student at United Arab Emirates University, was contacted by a fisherman who found an unusual looking shark, which resulted in the first scientific record of a sand tiger shark in United Arab Emirates waters. Jabado also found species with local legal protections for sale in markets, such as whale sharks and green sawfish, which she says shows “some species should be protected and managed locally and that there is a clear need for better enforcement of some of the current legislation.” Spaet agrees, noting that “in Saudi Arabia shark fishing is prohibited by law, yet we still find large numbers of sharks landed at the markets every day.”

In the meantime Moore has some advice for any shark-o-philes going on vacation: “Always go to the fish market with a camera, especially in tropical countries where there is little data—there is always the chance that you could find something new. Even if you don’t, fish markets in the early morning are amazing—lively places with real character and great food.”

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