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Terrorism & Security

US defends unmanned drone attacks after harsh UN report

UN special rapporteur Philip Alston on Wednesday called for a halt to US unmanned drone attacks, which he called a path to a 'Playstation' mentality towards killing.

By Jonathan AdamsCorrespondent / June 3, 2010

Members of the 11th Reconnaissance Squadron from Indian Springs, Nev., perform pre-flight checks on the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle prior to a mission, in this November 9, 2001 file photo shot at an undisclosed location. US officials defended the use of unmanned drones after a critical UN report was released.

REUTERS/U.S. Air Force/Handout/Files

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US officials and security analysts defended the use of unmanned drone attacks, after a UN official urged a halt to such killings in a strongly worded report released Wednesday.

The debate comes in the wake of reports that Al Qaeda's No. 3 commander, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, was killed along with his wife, three daughters, and a grand-daughter in a US drone attack in Pakistan.

Since 2004, the US has conducted a covert assassination campaign against suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban militants in Pakistan, using unmanned drones often operated by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in control rooms thousands of miles away. Drone use has soared under President Barack Obama. (Agence France-Presse offers a graphic of a how a drone operates.)

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The campaign has included some 135 attacks in northwest Pakistan since 2004 which have killed between 944 and 1,398 individuals, about 30 percent of whom were "non-militants," according to the New American Foundation, which derived its numbers from media reports.

The US has been cagey about publicly discussing its drone attacks, particularly those in Pakistan. But the assassination campaign has become such public knowledge that President Obama joked about drones during the White House Correspondents' Dinner, saying to a boy band in the audience: "Sasha and Malia are huge fans, but boys, don't get any ideas. Two words for you: predator drones. You will never see it coming.”

Pakistan has publicly objected to the killings but its military has provided target information and approved of the attacks in at least some cases.

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