Despite U.S. President Obama’s strict new rules for drone strikes against terror suspects abroad; a U.S. drone strike early this morning fired four missiles into a structure housing an unofficial sharia court in Pakistan’s North Waziristan killing 17 people in what could be the single most devastating drone attack.
The Pakistani government was quick to condemn the attacks saying it was a "violation of Pakistan's sovereignty and territorial integrity".
The Guardian quoted one official from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) secretariat saying that the strike had been on a building used as an unofficial sharia court for dispensing Islamic justice on the outskirts of Miranshah, a town that is also the political capital of North Waziristan. Local media reports stated that the attack “shook the entire town and engulfed the building in haze of dust and debris.
According to a report by Pakistani newspaper Dawn, the drone was targeting the Haqqani residential compound and a car. However, head commander Haji Shahrifullah of Haqqani, a militant network, is said to be safe, whereas 17 people were killed and two others injured in the attack, the report said.
This is the second such drone strike in two days. On Tuesday, at least seven people were killed in a pre-dawn drone attack in Pakistan's North Waziristan region.
The attacks come less than two months after U.S President Barack Obama approved strict rules for drone strikes against terror suspects abroad thus laying out a standard for using “lethal force” outside warzones.
A recent study by Lawrence Lewis, a researcher at the U.S. Center for Naval Analyses who possesses a top-security clearance based on classified military documents found that a drone strikes is 10 times more likely to cause innocent casualties than bombs or missiles launched from U.S. jets.
In May, President Obama defended the use of drones saying, they "have saved lives" by eliminating terrorists, and are a legal part of a "just war" against terror outfits.
After a 12-month (mid-2010 to mid-2011) review of casualty statistics, the study criticized Pentagon leaders for giving drone operators “limited training” on how to minimize civilian harm.
The debate on drone strikes have been at the forefront since U.S Attorney General Eric Holder recently admitted that the government killed four Americans in different drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan.
According to the Policy guidelines released by the White House regulating the drone bombing raids; lethal force will not be used as punishment but only to prevent or stop attacks against US persons, and even then, only when capture is not feasible and no other reasonable alternatives exist to address the threat effectively.
It added that, it is simply not the case that all terrorists pose a continuing, imminent threat to US persons; if a terrorist does not pose such a threat, the United States will not use lethal force.
The latest strike is the 15th of its kind in Pakistan this year. So far, at least 87 people, most of them said to be radicals, have reportedly been killed in such strikes across the country.