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Residential buildings most targeted in the CIA’s drone attack campaign in Pakistan

27th Jun 2014

Elham Asaad Buaras

Residential buildings continue to be the most targeted structures in the CIA’s 10-year drone attack campaign in Pakistan, according to research  by the US and UK based Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ), Forensic Architecture and Situ Research.

According to report Get the data: What the drones strike over 61% of all drone strikes in Pakistan targeted residential buildings, with at least 132 houses destroyed, in more than 380 strikes. Houses are twice as likely to be attacked at night when families are likely to be at home.

At least 222 civilians are estimated to be among the 1,500 or more people killed in attacks on residential buildings.

The report also clarity’s the use of terminology which blurs the lines between combat and civilian used building.

The report clarity’s: “Where drones attack buildings, these are often described as ‘compounds’ and sometimes even ‘militant compounds’. However, local sources confirm that these are typically domestic buildings that are often rented or commandeered by militant groups.”

The research reveals a continued policy of targeting buildings throughout the CIA’s campaign in Pakistan, despite an instruction in Afghanistan from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which commands foreign operations in the country, that forces operate under the rule that ‘all compounds are assumed to house civilians unless proven to be clear’.

This rule has been in place since at least September 2008 when, according to a leaked report, ISAF introduced a Tactical Directive that ‘specifically called for limiting airstrikes on compounds to avoid civilian casualties when Isaf forces are not in imminent danger.’

In both Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan people tend to live in buildings that are often described as ‘compounds’.

Director of Islamabad-based organisation the Fata Research Centre, Mansur Mahsud, describes the way people live in these areas: ‘One compound is used by many families, like brothers and first cousins, although every family has their own portion or space in the compound. The compounds in these agencies are quite big – most would measure half an acre or more. Normally you will find 20-25 people living in one compound, and in some cases you will find more than 50.’

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