A US drone missile attack has killed at least 18 people and injured 14 others – but missed its target of Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud – in Pakistan’s underdeveloped North Waziristan region.
The attack, which was controlled remotely by CIA officials working out of control centres at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, was the seventh remotely-controlled US missile assault in the tribal district this month.
A Pakistani security official said that two missiles had bee fired at a compound in Pasalkot village where Pakistan’s Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud was believed to have been staying.
The official said that he had “information that he was around there – we’re checking on whether he was killed.”
A Taliban spokesman claimed that Mr Mehsud was safe and had left the compound minutes before the assault.
The attack was mounted a day after the American Civil Liberties Union filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request asking the Obama administration to disclose the legal basis for its use of Predator drones to conduct “targeted killings” overseas.
There were at least 45 drone attacks in Pakistan in 2009, compared with 27 in 2008.
In particular, the ACLU sought to find out under what conditions drone strikes can be authorised, and how Washington ensured compliance with international laws relating to extrajudicial killings.
ACLU National Security Project legal fellow Jonathan Manes said: “The Obama administration has reportedly expanded the drone programme, but it has not explained publicly what the legal basis for the programme is, what limitations it recognises on the use of drones outside active theatres of war and what the civilian casualty toll has been thus far.”
Barack Obama’s government has used unmanned drones to target and kill individuals not only in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, but also in other countries such as Yemen.