(...) The records were provided to The Washington Post by Reprieve, a London-based human rights organization that has worked in Yemen to document civilian casualties of the U.S. drone campaign.
Kat Craig, a legal director for the group, said the records undermine U.S. claims “that the victims of this drone attack were anything other than civilians” and said the size of the payouts suggest that the Yemeni government — among the poorest in the Middle East — is being reimbursed by the United States.
The records indicate that families of those killed were each given Yemeni currency worth approximately $60,000, with smaller amounts paid to those who sustained injuries or whose vehicles were damaged or destroyed. “In Yemen, that is a life-changing amount of money,” Craig said. “I can’t believe those types of figures would be initiated by the Yemeni government.”
U.S. officials declined to comment on the Dec. 12 strike or any U.S. role in the payments but acknowledged offering money to victims and their families when civilians are injured or killed.
“Although we will not comment on specific cases, were non-combatants killed or injured in a U.S. strike, condolence or other ex gratia payments, such as solatia, may be available,” Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the National Security Council at the White House, said in an e-mailed statement. She also said the U.S. government “takes seriously all credible reports of non-combatant deaths and injuries” and seeks “to ensure that we are taking the most effective steps to minimize such risk to non-combatants.”
Other U.S. officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity denied any U.S. involvement in the payments.
Yemeni officials also declined to discuss the Dec. 12 strike or the payments, but a Yemeni government official who viewed the Reprieve documents said they appeared to be authentic.
The records make no mention of the United States or its use of armed drones to carry out strikes against al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, as the group’s Yemen-based affiliate is known.
Nevertheless, the documents serve as the only public record associated with the highly classified U.S. drone campaign in Yemen and offer new details of a strike that remains the focus of debate within the United States.
U.S. military officials have defended the attack and indicated that a subsequent investigation determined that al-Qaeda-linked operatives — and no civilians — were killed.
U.S. officials have said that both the CIA and the National Counterterrorism Center, which was directed by the White House to review the operation, concluded that civilians were probably injured or killed.
The U.S. military has since abided by a Yemen-imposed suspension of JSOC’s authority to conduct strikes in the country. U.S. officials indicated that the restriction is being reconsidered, but for now only the CIA has authority to launch lethal strikes in Yemen. (...)
More than 400 large U.S. military drones have crashed in major accidents around the world since 2001, a record of calamity that exposes the potential dangers of throwing open American skies to drone traffic, according to a year-long Washington Post investigation.
Since the outbreak of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, military drones have malfunctioned in myriad ways, plummeting from the sky because of mechanical breakdowns, human error, bad weather and other reasons, according to more than 50,000 pages of accident investigation reports and other records obtained by The Post under the Freedom of Information Act. (...)
Domestic buildings have been hit by drone strikes more than any other type of target in the CIA’s 10-year campaign in the tribal regions of northern Pakistan, new research reveals.
By way of contrast, since 2008, in neighbouring Afghanistan drone strikes on buildings have been banned in all but the most urgent situations, as part of measures to protect civilian lives. But a new investigative project by the Bureau, Forensic Architecture, a research project based at London’s Goldsmiths University, and New York-based Situ Research, reveals that in Pakistan, domestic buildings continue to be the most frequent target of drone attacks.
The project examines, for the first time, the types of target attacked in each drone strike – be they houses, vehicles or madrassas (religious schools) – and the time of day the attack took place.
Over three-fifths (61%) of all drone strikes in Pakistan targeted domestic buildings, with at least 132 houses destroyed, in more than 380 strikes.
At least 222 civilians are estimated to be among the 1,500 or more people killed in attacks on such buildings. In the past 18 months, reports of civilian casualties in attacks on any targets have almost completely vanished, but historically almost one civilian was killed, on average, in attacks on houses.
The CIA has consistently attacked houses have throughout the 10-year campaign in Pakistan.
The time of an attack affects how many people – and how many civilians – are likely to die. Houses are twice as likely to be attacked at night compared with in the afternoon. Strikes that took place in the evening, when families likely to be at home and gathered together, were particularly deadly.