US to release death toll from terror drone strikes
The White House will for the first time release the death toll from US terror drone strikes conducted since 2009, officials say.
The figures will be disclosed in a review of the US airstrikes worldwide outside of active war zones, Lisa Monaco, President Barack Obama’s top homeland security adviser, said Monday.
The review will include the number of both fighters and civilians who were killed in the air raids.
“In the coming weeks, the administration will publicly release an assessment of combatant and non-combatant casualties resulting from strikes taken outside areas of active hostilities since 2009,” Monaco said during a speech at a Washington think tank.
The report, set to be released following a 2013 promise by Obama to provide more transparency in the assassination drone program, will be published annually, she added.
Jameel Jaffer, a senior official with the American Civil Liberties Union, called the planned report “an important step,” but noted it “should be part of a broader reconsideration of the secrecy surrounding the drone campaign.”
“The authority to use lethal force should be subject to more stringent oversight by the public, by Congress, and, at least in some contexts, by the courts,” Jaffer added.
According to the nonpartisan Stimson Center think tank, the US has drone bases in over a dozen countries, including Afghanistan, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kuwait, Niger, the Philippines, Qatar, Seychelles, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the UAE.
The CIA spy agency regularly uses drones for airstrikes and spying missions in Afghanistan as well as Pakistan’s northwestern tribal belt near the Afghan border.
Washington has also been conducting targeted killings through remotely-controlled armed drones in Somalia and Yemen.
In its most recent drone airstrike, the US reportedly killed more than 150 people in Somalia over the weekend.
Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis claimed on Monday that the fatalities occurred on Saturday when the drone carried out the strike on a training camp of al-Shabab militants about 120 miles (195 kilometers) north of the Somali capital of Mogadishu.
The United States says the airstrikes only target members of al-Qaeda and other militants, but according to local officials and witnesses, civilians have been the main victims of the attacks in most cases.