On anniversary of CIA drone strike, victim demands answers

March 17, 2016

Image of Noor Khan & Kareem Khan

On the anniversary of a CIA drone strike which killed his civilian father, a Pakistani man is urging President Obama to name his family – and those like him – when the administration releases details of how many people have been killed by the US covert drone programme.

Noor Khan’s father – Malik Daud Khan, a local elder – was presiding over a council meeting about a chromite mine dispute in North Waziristan on March 17th, 2011, when a CIA drone struck and killed nearly 40 people, all of whom were civilians. Shortly after, it emerged that UK intelligence agency GCHQ shares targeting information with the US that enables the CIA to carry out the strikes – like the one which killed Noor Khan’s father.

It also emerged that the strike was taken “in retaliation” for the Pakistanis detaining a CIA contractor named Raymond Davis who shot two people in broad daylight several months earlier.  At the time, the US Ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, tried unsuccessfully to stop the strike.

The covert drone programme is widely estimated to have killed hundreds of civilians in Yemen and Pakistan – countries with which the US is not at war. Last week, the Obama administration announced that it would soon release its own estimates for the number of people killed in CIA strikes. It did not confirm, however, whether that will include the names, like Malik Daud Khan, of those who have been killed and can be clearly identified as civilians.

Noor Khan subsequently launched legal action against the UK Government, supported by international human rights organisation Reprieve, over its role in strikes like the one that killed his father.

Noor Khan, whose father Malik Khan – a local village elder – was killed in a CIA drone strike on March 17th, 2011, in Pakistan, said: “My father’s killing five years ago, along with so many other respected members of our community, was completely devastating. The death of a loved one never gets any easier. It is made all the more difficult, though, by the complete wall of silence from those responsible. CIA operatives sitting thousands of miles away decided to end my father’s life that day. They acted as judge, jury and executioner and yet, when faced with overwhelming evidence that those killed, including my father, were civilians, they said nothing. Releasing numbers of those people killed by the covert drone programme is not enough. My father and the hundreds of other innocent victims who have lost their lives to this illegal programme have names and families who loved them. If we are to move forward, the US must name those killed by US drones, and tell their stories. Numbers simply aren’t enough.”

Kat Craig, Legal Director at international human rights NGO Reprieve, which represented Noor Khan in his legal action against the UK Government, said: “The CIA’s covert drone war is shrouded in secrecy and hidden from public scrutiny. It has killed hundreds of innocent civilians and terrorised entire communities in countries with which the U.S is not at war. At the same time, military and security establishment voices have warned of the ineffectiveness of the programme. The US – and allies such as the UK, without which it could not operate the programme – must come clean over these secret programmes to prevent the loss of even more innocent lives.”