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Claims that drones kill no civilians contested

world Updated: Aug 13, 2011 01:17 IST

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The civilian casualties from the Central Intelligence Agency’s drone campaign, which is widely credited with disrupting al Qaeda and its allies in Pakistan’s tribal region, has been in bitter dispute since the predator strikes were accelerated in 2008.

Accounts of strike after strike from official and unofficial sources are so at odds that they often seem to describe different events, ‘The New York Times’ reports. The debate has intensified since U.S. president Barack Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, John O. Brennan, clearly referring to the classified drone program, said in June that for almost a year, “there hasn’t been a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities we’ve been able to develop.” Other officials say that extraordinary claim still holds, as CIA officers believe that since May 2010, the drones have killed more than 600 militants and not a single non-combatant.

The government’s assertion of zero collateral deaths meets with deep scepticism from many independent experts, the report said, noting that a new report from the British Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which conducted interviews in Pakistan’s tribal area, concluded that at least 45 civilians were killed in 10 strikes during the last year.