Rights groups condemn US drone raids

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A photo of an MQ-9 Reaper drone flying at Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nevada. AFP PHOTO

A photo of an MQ-9 Reaper drone flying at Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nevada. AFP PHOTO

ISLAMABAD: The United States (US) should end the secrecy surrounding its drone campaign in Pakistan and Yemen and bring those responsible for illegal attacks to justice, rights campaigners said on Tuesday.

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Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) published separate reports on drones on the eve of White House talks between US President Barack Obama and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, at which the weapons are expected to be discussed.

Amnesty highlighted two drone attacks in northwest Pakistan last year, one of which killed a 68-year-old grandmother as she picked vegetables, saying there appeared to be no justification for either.

The US has carried out nearly 400 drone attacks in Pakistan’s restive tribal districts along the Afghan border since 2004, killing between 2,500 and 3,600 people, according to the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Washington says they are an important and effective tool in the fight against militants linked to the Taliban and al-Qaeda, who have strongholds in the tribal areas. But critics say hundreds of innocent civilians have died in the strikes.

Amnesty said that without more transparency it was impossible to test US claims that the attacks conform to international law.

Obama mounted a defense of the drone war in May as legal and just and the best way to counter terror plots against Americans.

But they are very unpopular in Pakistan, where the government condemns them publicly as counterproductive and a violation of sovereignty.

AFP

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