The U.S. is disputing a report that its counter-terror drone program has killed hundreds of civilians in Pakistan, including more than 160 children. The London-based non-profit Bureau of Investigative Journalism released a report this week that claimed the CIA drone program, credited for killing approximately 2,000 suspected militants, is also responsible for the deaths of 385 civilians, 168 of them kids, in 291 strikes since 2004.
“The numbers cited by this organization are way off the mark,” a senior U.S. official told ABC News. “We see the battlefield in real time; the Bureau of Investigative Journalism doesn’t… This group’s allegations about individual strikes are, in every case, divorced from the facts on the ground.”
The official said that while the U.S. agrees around 2,000 suspected militants have been killed, the total civilian casualties are closer to 50. One of the “loudest voices” in the report is that of a Pakistani lawyer who is currently involved in legal action with the U.S., the official said. “His agenda is crystal clear.”
The lead reporter on the BIJ’s project, Chris Woods, told ABC News that the group has no agenda and simply compiled public information while attempting to corroborate what they could on the ground, since the CIA’s figures are unavailable to them.
By LEE FERRAN, ABC News, Aug. 12, 2011