US drone strikes kill 28 unknown people for every intended target, new Reprieve report reveals

November 25, 2014

US drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan have killed as many as 1,147 unknown people in failed attempts to kill 41 named individuals, a report by human rights charity Reprieve has found.

The report looks at deaths resulting from US drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan between November 2002 and November 2014. It identifies 41 men who appeared to have been killed multiple times – drawing into question the Obama administration’s repeated claims that the covert drone programme is ‘precise.’   While the US drone programme is shrouded in secrecy, security sources regularly brief the media on the names of those suspected militants targeted or killed in the strikes. Frequently, those individuals are reported to have been targeted or killed on multiple occasions.

Reprieve’s assessment is the first to provide an estimate of the number of people – including in some cases children – who are killed each time the US apparently attempts to assassinate a ‘high value target.’ Due to the US Government’s refusal to publish any information relating to the programme, or the ‘Kill List’ said to determine its targets, the analysis is limited to existing, publicly-available data from media reports and The Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Key findings of the report include:

  • In Pakistan, 24 men were reported as killed or targeted multiple times. Missed strikes on these men killed 874 people, including 142 children.
  • In Yemen, 17 men were reported killed or targeted multiple times. Missile strikes on these men killed 273 others and accounted for almost half of all confirmed civilian casualties and 100% of all recorded child deaths.
  • In targeting Ayman al Zawahiri, the CIA killed 76 children and 29 adults. They failed twice, and Ayman al Zawahiri is reportedly still alive.
  • It took the US six attempts to kill Qari Hussain, a Pakistani target. During these attempts, 128 people were killed, including 13 children.
  • Each assassination target on the US government’s so-called Kill List ‘died’ on average more than three times before their actual death.

The US government’s drone programme has come under increasing scrutiny after a number of strikes that hit large numbers of civilians by mistake. It was recently revealed – as a result of investigations by Reprieve – that the US government compensates civilian victims of drone strikes in Yemen.

Jennifer Gibson, Staff Attorney at Reprieve who compiled the report, said: “These ‘high value targets’ appear to be doing the impossible – dying not once, not twice, but as many as six times. At the same time, hundreds of unknown men, women and children are also caught in the crosshairs. President Obama continues to insist drone strikes are ‘precise’, but when targeting one person instead kills as many as 128 others, there’s only one conclusion that can be drawn – there’s nothing targeted about the US drone programme.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

  1. For more information, please contact Reprieve’s Press Office on (00 44) 207 553 8166/61 / alice.gillham@reprieve.org.uk / clemency.wells@reprieve.org.uk or in the US – (001) 917 855 8064 / Katherine.oshea@reprieve.org
  2. The full report can be read at the Reprieve US website, here. or more information, please contact Reprieve’s Press Office on (00 44) 207 553 8166/61 / alice.gillham@reprieve.og.uk / clemency.wells@reprieve.og.uk  or in the US – (001) 917 855 8064 / Katherine.oshea@reprieve.org