A 16-year-old was last week killed along with his 12-year-old cousin by a CIA drone strike, just days after visiting Islamabad with his father for dialogue concerning the agency’s unmanned attack aircraft in the Pakistan border region.
Tariq Aziz was killed along with his cousin Waheed Khan when a missile fired by one of the US’ remotely-operated drones hit their vehicle near their home in North Waziristan last Monday (31 October).
On the previous Friday, Tariq had attended a jirga – or council – in Islamabad, at which the elders of communities in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) met for the first time with Western lawyers from London-based charity Reprieve to discuss the CIA’s secret bombing campaign in their area, which has claimed hundreds of civilian lives.
The CIA refuses to acknowledge that the programme is taking place, although it is generally accepted that ‘Predator’ and ‘Reaper’ robotic aircraft, armed with Hellfire missiles, are remotely operated from America. President Obama’s counter-terror adviser, John Brennan, recently claimed that there had been no civilian casualties in a year as a result of this covert action.
When his car was hit, Tariq and his cousin had been travelling to a village near their home town of Mirali (Mubarak shahi) to pick up Tariq’s aunt. The missile reportedly struck when they were just 200 metres from his aunt’s house. The two boys were alone, and there is no suggestion that either had anything to do with terrorism.
Having attended the jirga, Tariq had been planning to join a Reprieve project aimed at ensuring a greater transparency in the CIA process. He agreed to take pictures of the aftermath of drone strikes in order to help document the damage they caused, and seek to bring an end to them through peaceful means.
Notably, the strike which killed Tariq and his cousin was first reported as having killed “four militants,” according to unnamed “Pakistani security officials” who briefed the media. This was false. The strike, near Mirali, had in fact killed only Tariq and his football team-mate and cousin Waheed.
Clive Stafford Smith, Director of Reprieve, said: “I met this lad Tariq last week, and he was no more a terrorist than my mother. It is tragic that the CIA did this, and it seems highly likely – and typical of the shoddy intelligence in these cases – that some local informant attached a tracking device to Tariq’s car and then told the CIA that the vehicle belonged to a terrorist. It’s high time the CIA stopped this dirty and illegal war.”
Shahzad Akbar of the Islamabad-based Foundation for Fundamental Rights said: “I remember talking with Tariq on the phone a few weeks ago. He was enthusiastic about the cameras for the transparency project, and was eagerly telling me about his computer skills and how he could upload pictures online. I believe we have lost someone who could have helped to show us what is really happening in that part of the world. It makes it twice as tragic that the CIA has killed a kid who wanted to work for justice and the rule of law. It is acts such as this that are fueling militancy and extremism among the young people of the tribal areas.”
1. For further information please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office on +44 (0) 207 427 1082 / +44 (0) 7791 755 415
2. Photos of Tariq Aziz, taken at the jirga in Islamabad, can be found on Reprieve’s website:
3. President Obama’s counter-terror adviser, John O Brennan, claimed in June that “there hasn’t been a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities we’ve been able to develop.” According to the New York Times, “other officials say that extraordinary claim still holds.” ('C.I.A. Is Disputed on Civilian Toll in Drone Strikes', NYT, 11 August 2011) http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/12/world/asia/12drones.html?_r=2&pagewanted=all
4. AFP initially reported the strike as having killed four suspected militants, according to unnamed security officials ('US drone kills three in N.W. Pakistan: officials', AFP, 1 November 2011).
5. Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.
Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 15 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, assisting over 70 prisoners facing the death penalty around the world, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’