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.

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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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US drone kills wedding guests in Yemen


This video says about itself:

Drone strike kills 15 wedding-goers instead of Al-Qaeda convoy in Yemen

12 Dec 2013

Fifteen people who had been heading to a wedding in Yemen have been killed in an air strike. Local media reported that a drone attack had been responsible, and the party-goers had been hit instead of an Al-Qaeda convoy.

From killing people at a funeral in Pakistan … to killing wedding guests in Iraq … to killing wedding guests in Afghanistan … to killing a newly married couple in Somalia … to now …

In this, the United States armed forces, instead of all that bloodshed, should rather follow the example of the Israeli army … rather, not all of that army, but those Israeli soldiers who reacted to a Palestinian wedding not by shooting at it, but by joining in the dancing (and who were subsequently disciplined for that).

From the BBC:

12 December 2013 Last updated at 19:44 GMT

Yemen wedding hit by deadly air strike

At least 13 people have been killed by an air strike on a wedding convoy in southern Yemen, say officials.

The attack happened near the town of Radda in al-Bayda province, a known stronghold of al-Qaeda.

It was unclear what aircraft carried out the attack, though local people said it was a drone.

The US has acknowledged using drones as part of its support for Yemen’s efforts to tackle militant extremists, but does not comment on individual strikes.

Human rights groups say US drone attacks in Yemen constitute unlawful killings.

From Reuters:

Air strike kills 15 civilians in Yemen by mistake: officials

SANAA Thu Dec 12, 2013 1:34pm EST

Fifteen people on their way to a wedding in Yemen were killed in an air strike after their party was mistaken for an al Qaeda convoy, local security officials said on Thursday.

The officials did not identify the plane in the strike in central al-Bayda province, but tribal and local media sources said that it was a drone.

“An air strike missed its target and hit a wedding car convoy, ten people were killed immediately and another five who were injured died after being admitted to the hospital,” one security official said.

Five more people were injured, the officials said. …

Human Rights Watch said in a detailed report in August that U.S. missile strikes, including armed drone attacks, have killed dozens of civilians in Yemen.

We’re Number One… In Obliterating Wedding Parties; by Tom Engelhardt: here.

Here’s the bottom line on the American drone strike that slaughtered as many as seventeen people in a wedding party in Yemen last week: the CIA, which carried out the attack, had no comment. The State Department didn’t say anything. And the White House, ignoring outcries in Yemen, says merely, “We obviously cooperate closely with the government of Yemen on counterterrorism, have in the past and will continue in the future to do that”: here.

Yemeni parliament in non-binding vote against drone attacks: here.

Compensation plan for drone victims’ relatives raises eyebrows: here.

Total oil workers strike in South Yemen: here.

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Yemeni poets, graffiti artists against US drone strikes


A Yemeni boy looks at graffiti depicting a U.S. drone at a street in Sana'a, Yemen, Nov. 6, 2013. Photo: Yahya Arhab / EPA

From TIME magazine in the USA:

Yemen’s New Ways of Protesting Drone Strikes: Graffiti and Poetry

Street artists and poets in Yemen campaign against American drone strikes

By Tik Root / Sana’a, Nov. 30, 2013

An American drone hovers along a main thoroughfare in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a. Not a real drone, but rather a 7 foot-long rendition of an unmanned aircraft spray-painted near the top of a whitewashed city wall. Below it, a stenciled-on child is writing: “Why did you kill my family?” in blood-red English and Arabic script.

Painted by Yemeni artist Murad Subay, the Banksy-esque mural sits beside three others also admonishing the United States’ use of drones in Yemen to track and kill terrorism suspects. This drone art is part of Subay’s latest campaign, “12 Hours”, which aims to raise awareness about twelve problems facing Yemen, including weapons proliferation, sectarianism, kidnapping and poverty. Drones are the fifth and arguably most striking “hour” yet completed.

“Graffiti in Yemen, or street art, is a new device to communicate with the people,” says Subay, 26, who after taking up street art two years ago in the wake of Yemen’s Arab Spring revolution has almost single-handedly sparked the growing Yemeni graffiti movement. “In one second, you can send a message.”

The anti-drone chorus in Yemen has grown louder since the Obama Administration took office in 2009. All but one of the dozens of reported drone strikes in Yemen have been carried out since Obama came to office (although strikes here and in Pakistan have been more sporadic in recent months). Operations are rarely acknowledged by American officials but have nonetheless stirred a global debate about the strikes’ legality, morality and effectiveness.

Proponents argue that drones offer an efficient way of fighting al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, a Yemen-based affiliate of the global terrorist network. The Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi has endorsed the program, praising ongoing U.S.-Yemen counterterrorism cooperation and the “high precision that’s been provided by drones.” Human rights activists in Yemen and the families of many victims are outraged by the so-called “drone war” in the country, which the Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates has resulted in between 21 and 56 civilian deaths. Aside from more conventional methods of protest - such as demonstrations, media campaigns, and the production of often scathing reports – activists are increasingly employing art as a medium through which to express their anger.

“We [have] tried to be a little bit more creative on ways [that] we can really combat the fact that drones are hovering over our cities and villages,” said Baraa Shiban, a Yemeni activist and project coordinator for the British-based organization Reprieve, which advocates for the rights of prisoners to receive a fair trial. Taking their lead from Yemen’s reputation for recitation, the group organized an anti-drone poetry contest earlier this month. The top prize: $600 or, in Reprieve’s words, “1% of the cost of a hellfire missile.”

A panel of Yemeni poets whittled the more than 30 submissions down to six finalists and a winner. Frontrunners gathered on a recent Tuesday afternoon to share their work. One by one, contestants read their poems aloud. Some delivered their verse – containing lines such as “From above, Death descends upon us,” “Drones are the friend of our enemy” and “Do you fight terrorism with terrorism?” – more fluently than others, but the small audience of mostly friends and fellow activists greeted all of the contestants with equally boisterous applause. The winner: Drones Without Rhyme, a catchy free verse poem with a familiar theme. The winning poet, Ayman Shahari, beamed as he walked on stage.

Despite not winning, Raghda Gamal, a journalist and author of the entry Death Flying Around!, was glad that she had participated. “It’s great to use such art to send your case,” she said. “We can use a lot of tools rather than weapons.”

Reprieve’s Shiban says that creative events like this help broaden discussions in Yemen, a country with high rates of illiteracy and limited Internet penetration. “It’s a way of engaging more sectors of society,” he says.

Subay agrees. “[Art] galleries in Yemen belong to one class. Graffiti is for all people,” he says. Two years ago there was hardly a stencil to be seen on public walls but today, thanks largely to Subay’s campaigns, they are plastered across some of the country’s most trafficked areas. Subay estimates that, in all, millions of citizens have now been exposed to street art.

Shiban is optimistic that cultural forms of protest like poetry and graffiti could be a step on the path toward ending drone strikes and affecting other changes in Yemen. Subay, however, is skeptical that art will alter policy, saying that the United States’ counterterrorism strategy will likely “carry on” regardless.

“Maybe I don’t expect any action [from the U.S.],” said Subay. “But I’ll always keep hoping.”

Whether or not the anti-drone poetry and graffiti influences American policy in Yemen, one thing seems clear: for a region whose people have so often lived under dictators and through times of violence, peaceful protest of this sort can only be healthy.

Drone attacks on Pakistan, Yemen are war crimes, Amnesty says


This video from the USA is called Drone Strikes Kill Numerous Civilians – Report.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Amnesty says US officials should face war crimes charges over drone strikes

Joint report with Human Rights Watch judges attacks in Yemen and Pakistan to have broken international human rights law

Jon Boone in Islamabad

Tuesday 22 October 2013

US officials responsible for the secret CIA drone campaign against suspected terrorists in Pakistan may have committed war crimes and should stand trial, a report by a leading human rights group warns. Amnesty International has highlighted the case of a grandmother who was killed while she was picking vegetables and other incidents which could have broken international laws designed to protect civilians.

The report is issued in conjunction with an investigation by Human Rights Watch detailing missile attacks in Yemen which the group believes could contravene the laws of armed conflict, international human rights law and Barack Obama’s own guidelines on drones.

The reports are being published while Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan’s prime minister, is in Washington. Sharif has promised to tell Obama that the drone strikes – which have caused outrage in Pakistan – must end.

Getting to the bottom of individual strikes is exceptionally difficult in the restive areas bordering Afghanistan, where thousands of militants have settled. People are often terrified of speaking out, fearing retribution from both militants and the state, which is widely suspected of colluding with the CIA-led campaign.

There is also a risk of militants attempting to skew outside research by forcing interviewees into “providing false or inaccurate information”, the report said.

But Amnesty mounted a major effort to investigate nine of the many attacks to have struck the region over the last 18 months, including one that killed 18 labourers in North Waziristan as they waited to eat dinner in an area of heavy Taliban influence in July 2012. All those interviewed by Amnesty strongly denied any of the men had been involved in militancy. Even if they were members of a banned group, that would not be enough to justify killing them, the report said.

“Amnesty International has serious concerns that this attack violated the prohibition of the arbitrary deprivation of life and may constitute war crimes or extrajudicial executions,” the report said. It called for those responsible to stand trial.

The US has repeatedly claimed very few civilians have been killed by drones. It argues its campaign is conducted “consistent with all applicable domestic and international law”.

The Amnesty report supports media accounts from October last year that a 68-year-old woman called Mamana Bibi was killed by a missile fired from a drone while she was picking okra outside her home in North Waziristan with her grandchildren nearby. A second strike minutes later injured family members tending her.

If true, the case is striking failure of a technology much vaunted for its accuracy. It is claimed the remote-controlled planes are able to observe their targets for hours or even days to verify them, and that the explosive force of the missiles is designed to limit collateral damage. As with other controversial drone strikes, the US has refused to acknowledge or explain what happened.

Amnesty said it accepts some US drone strikes may not violate the law, “but it is impossible to reach any firm assessment without a full disclosure of the facts surrounding individual attacks and their legal basis. The USA appears to be exploiting the lawless and remote nature of the region to evade accountability for its violations,” it said.

In Yemen, another country where US drones are active, Human Rights Watch highlighted six incidents, two of which were a “clear violation of international humanitarian law”. The remaining four may have broken the laws of armed conflict because the targets were illegitimate or because not enough was done to minimise civilian harm, the report said.

It also argued that some of the Yemen attacks breach the guidelines announced by Obama earlier this year in his first major speech on a programme that is officially top secret. For example, the pledge to kill suspects only when it is impossible to capture them appears to have been ignored on 17 April this year when an al-Qaida leader was blown up in a township in Dhamar province in central Yemen, Human Rights Watch said.

An attack on a truck driving 12 miles south of the capital Sana’a reportedly killed two al-Qaida suspects but also two civilians who had been hired by the other men. That means the attack could have been illegal because it “may have caused disproportionate harm to civilians”.

The legal arguments over drones are extremely complex, with much controversy focusing on whether or not the places where they are used amount to war zones.

Amnesty said some of the strikes in Pakistan might be covered by that claim, but rejected a “global war doctrine” that allows the US to attack al-Qaida anywhere in the world.

“To accept such a policy would be to endorse state practices that fundamentally undermine crucial human rights protections that have been painstakingly developed over more than a century of international law-making,” the report said.

See also here.

Human rights organization, Amnesty International, has released a report that presents two case studies on victims of United States drone strikes in Pakistan and also details the practice of signature strikes, which has led to rescuers being killed in follow-up attacks while they are trying to help wounded individuals: here.

On Syria, Obama went to Congress over military action. But in Yemen, the US has joined a counter-insurgency without a word: here.

British government arrests anti-drone activist as ‘terrorist’


This video from the USA is called As Obama Shuns Hearing, Yemeni Says U.S. Drone War Terrifying Civilians, Empowering Militants.

By Jordan Shilton:

Britain uses anti-terror powers to detain Yemeni activist

28 September 2013

Baraa Shiban, a Yemeni activist who has campaigned against the use of drones, was detained by British authorities on Monday and questioned under anti-terror legislation.

Shiban’s detention comes just one month after police detained David Miranda, the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, who collaborated with former National Security Agency whistle-blower Edward Snowden in exposing mass surveillance by US and UK spy agencies.

Miranda’s, and now Shiban’s detention confirms the increasing use of anti-terrorist legislation to target political opponents.

Shiban was detained at Gatwick airport by border agents under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which permits the holding of an individual for up to nine hours without access to a lawyer. Shiban was held for over an hour, during which time he was questioned on his political views and activities. He was threatened with a longer period of detention if he did not cooperate by answering questions as to the nature of his political work in Yemen.

Shiban works for the legal charity Reprieve, which is based in London and campaigns for human rights and the rule of law. As head of the organisation’s operations in Yemen, he has led investigations into the impact of drone killings on civilians in that country, something which has become a regular occurrence under the Obama administration. The US government has stepped up its use of drones in Yemen, killing a US citizen, Anwar al-Alawki, in 2011. Shiban’s organisation supports the victims of drone attacks, including with legal proceedings.

According to a Guardian article, Reprieve had recently discovered evidence revealing the complicity of British authorities in US drone strikes in Yemen. Britain provided the intelligence and communications infrastructure to facilitate the attacks. Shiban was questioned on this by his interrogators, stating to the Guardian that he was told, “Your organisation has obviously been causing a lot of problems to your country. The relations between your government and the UK are vital for us.”

In a further exchange, he was asked, “What if your organisation did something bad to your government, and you are here because of the bad things your organisation has done to your government? I want to know, because the relations between Yemen and the UK are important. I want to know that your organisation is not disrupting that.”

The targeting of Shiban is an attempt by the UK government to intimidate all opposition to its imperialist military operations abroad in alliance with the US. To this end, all political opponents face being designated as terrorists in order to deny them the most basic legal and democratic rights. As Shiban put it in his Guardian piece, “Even we in Yemen heard of David Miranda’s nine hours in custody. Then I was stopped. Who will be the next human rights worker caught in the net of schedule 7?”

The extensive powers at the disposal of the state not only to detain individuals, but also to examine any of their possessions, were demonstrated by the detention of Miranda last month. Abetted by the courts, the police have been granted virtually unhindered access to his personal belongings on the grounds of “national security” considerations.

Miranda had been travelling back from Berlin to Brazil, and was carrying leaked documents on the UK’s intelligence operations. He faces the prospect of having criminal charges brought against him.

Following Shiban’s detention, Greenwald revealed internal US intelligence documents leaked by Snowden which illustrate the hostility with which opponents of the use of drones are viewed. In one of the documents, part of a posting on an internal web site, the authors list a series of “threats” to drone use, including weather conditions, air defence systems and electronic warfare. In addition, there is what the document refers to as “propaganda campaigns which target UAV (drone) use.” Any such activity is considered by the spy agencies as “adversary propaganda themes.”

The document contains a blunt justification for the undermining of basic legal principles by the Obama administration and its allies in the UK and other countries, above all on the right of due process. The intelligence document states, under the heading “nationality of target vs. due process,” that “Attacks against American and European persons who have become violent extremists are often criticized by propagandists, arguing that lethal action against these individuals deprives them of due process.”

As Greenwald states, “In the eyes of the US government, ‘due process’—the idea that the US government should not deprive people of life away from a battlefield without presenting evidence of guilt is no longer a basic staple of the American political system, but rather a malicious weapon of propagandists.”

In a related development, Greenwald reported on the case of Shahzad Akbar, a lawyer with Reprieve based in Pakistan who is currently suing the US government over its drone killings of civilians there. The Obama administration refused to grant Akbar a visa this week to enter the US, where the lawyer was to have testified before Congress on the US government’s drone programme.

The Reprieve activists were portrayed as supporters of terrorism. In his questioning by border agents, Shiban reported that he was accused of aiding terrorists because he had dared to criticise the “counterterrorism” operations of the western powers.

The presentation of opponents of drone strikes as supporters of terrorism is particularly dishonest, coming from the very governments who are not only committing terrorist acts by using drones, but also collaborating so intimately with terrorist groups with close links to Al Qaeda in a proxy war in Syria.

Evidence exists showing that British intelligence played a key role in fomenting the “rebels” in their war against the Assad regime. Although it was forced to temporarily pull back from a military strike, the US has stepped up its funding of these organisations, including by supplying arms.

Moreover, if the British and American authorities are suggesting that any opposition to drone strikes automatically equates to support for “terrorism” and places individuals in the “enemy” camp, this must be their view of the vast majority of the population. In a 2012 survey, the Pew research centre found that more than half of the population in 17 of the 20 countries surveyed was opposed to drone strikes. In Greece, 90 percent were opposed, in Egypt 89 percent, Jordan (85 percent), Turkey (81 percent), Spain (76 percent), Brazil (76 percent) and Japan (75 percent). Even in countries where support was higher, such as Britain, 47 percent of people still rejected drone killings.

The increasingly authoritarian methods being employed by the state against activists and human rights campaigners are ultimately aimed at the widespread opposition in the working class to their policies of imperialist war abroad and devastating social cuts at home.

Like Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda, a Yemeni activist was also interrogated under the schedule 7 provision of the Terrorism Act 2000 on Tuesday: here.

More British drone strikes in Afghanistan


This video from the USA is called Drone Strikes Kill Numerous Civilians.

From AFP news agency, September 6, 2013:

Sharp rise in British drone use in Afghanistan

In 2012 British drones flew 892 missions over Afghanistan — firing missiles on 92 occasions

The British military fired nearly seven times as many missiles from unmanned drones in Afghanistan last year as it did five years earlier, according to official data released on Friday.

In 2012 British drones flew 892 missions over Afghanistan — firing missiles on 92 occasions — more than 10 percent of all sorties, junior defence minister Andrew Robathan said in a written statement to parliament.This compares to 2008 when the hi-tech unmanned Reaper aircraft flew 296 missions, firing weapons just five percent of the time, on 14 occasions.Used to target suspected insurgents in Afghanistan, Britain’s Reaper drones are capable of carrying laser-guided Hellfire missiles.

Heavy use of drones by the United States has been one of the most controversial aspects of its fight against Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and beyond.

Drone fire has killed top leaders from both Islamist networks, but it has also been blamed for scores of civilian deaths.