Monday, January 26, 2009

Obama murders his first civilians

Sardonic congratulations are in order:

President orders air strikes on villages in tribal area
By Ewen MacAskill

WASHINGTON, Jan 24 (Guardian) - Barack Obama gave the go-ahead for his first military action yesterday, missile strikes against suspected militants in Pakistan which killed at least 18 people.

Four days after assuming the presidency, he was consulted by US commanders before they launched the two attacks. Although Obama has abandoned many of the "war on terror" policies of George Bush while he was president, he is not retreating from the hunt for Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders...

The US missiles were fired by unmanned Predator drones...

The strikes will help Obama portray himself as a leader who, though ready to shift the balance of American power towards diplomacy, is not afraid of military action.

The first attack yesterday was on the village of Zharki, in Waziristan; three missiles destroyed two houses and killed 10 people. One villager told Reuters of phone that of nine bodies pulled from the rubble of one house, six were its owner and his relatives; Reuters added that intelligence officials said some foreign militants were also killed. A second attack hours later also in Warizistan killed eight people... (link)
Inevitably, it seems, civilians catch hell:
U.S. Missiles 'Don't Help' Pakistan's War Against Militants
Pakistan has protested U.S. strikes before, but not at President Asif Ali Zardari's level.

JANUARY 25 (RFE) - Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has sharply criticized U.S. missile strikes on suspected terrorists in his country's tribal region...

The Pakistani leaders remarks underline again Islamabad's anger over twin missile strikes on January 23 that killed 22 people.

Officials say eight of the victims were suspected foreign militants, the rest are unidentified but said to include an unspecified number of civilians...

The twin strikes hit Al-Qaeda strongholds in Waziristan, killing eight suspected foreign militants among the 22 victims. One of the identified militants is Egyptian operative Mustafa al-Misri. Pakistani officials say they are now trying to learn what level of seniority he had in the terrorist network...

[I]n recent months, the number of missile attacks on targets in the tribal areas [of Pakistan] has steadily increased.

Reuters has reported that there have been more than 30 strikes since August, more than half of them during the past four months.

The news agency cited reports from Pakistani intelligence agents, district government officials, and residents as indicating more than 220 people, including foreign militants, have been killed in the attacks recorded since August... (link)
In the Globe and Mail, Saeed Shah notes that "Women and children were among the dead" in the January 23 attacks. He goes on to reveal more about the effects of the continuing American policy in Pakistan:
An estimated 220 people have been killed, including more than 100 civilians [in US attacks on Pakistan] during the last 12 months. The death toll, especially of innocent bystanders, has caused massive public anger and provoked street protests, with resentment directed at the governments of both the United States and Pakistan.(link)

The Los Angeles Times reports 22 civilian dead:
Village elders provided a much different account to provincial officials, saying there were no Taliban in the area, which they described as a hamlet populated mainly by shepherds. Women and children were among the 22 civilian dead, they said, according to Hamididan Abdul Rahmzai, head of the provincial council...

The American military statement said searches of village compounds after the raid uncovered weapons caches...

The woman who was killed was advancing on troops with a rocket-propelled grenade, the military said. Western forces occasionally have reported encounters with female combatants... (link)

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