Seven alleged militants are killed in South Waziristan region of Pakistan in the first US drone attacks since the arrest of American Raymond Davis in January.
The first drone attack in Pakistan since the controversial arrest of US citizen Raymond Davis last month, has killed seven alleged militants.
The area of South Waziristan was a major centre of the US offensive against terrorism in 2010 with regular drones deployed to targeted sites. Channel 4 News investigated the effect they had had in eliminating the heavy militia presence in the area, with growing effect.
These attacks were being deployed as regularly as once a week but ceased when Mr Davis was arrested for shooting two Pakistani men who had allegedly tried to rob him.
The latest attack was on a compound in the Azam Warsak area of South Waziristan on the Afghan border. According to Pakistani intelligence three missiles hit a village in Kaza Panga, a village in the tribal region.
If the events in the middle east were less seismic and important I think that the Raymond Davies story would be much bigger than it is. Peter Bergen, New America Foundation
The drone attack on Sunday however was the first in the area since the controversial killings. Speculation had been rife that Washington had ceased its programme of drone warfare in the area whilst the sensitive political matter was still being dealt with. Mr Davis is still in custody despite the US claiming he has diplomatic immunity.
Senator John Kerry was sent to Pakistan by President Obama last week to broker a deal for Raymond Davis’s release pledging that he would be tried in a US court for the alleged crimes, but the Senator returned home empty-handed as Pakistan mulls over the issue of immunity.
Channel 4 News spoke to Peter Bergen at the New America Foundation who believes that the current situation in Pakistan would normally be further up the news agenda: “If the events in the middle east were less seismic and important I think that the Raymond Davis story would be much bigger than it is. This is an issue which is the big news story in Pakistan right now and has put a crimp in American Pakistani relations”
The drone attacks have been heavily criticised, since their increased usage in 2008, for the relatively large proportion of civilians killed in what is supposed to be targeted, intelligence based warfare. In 2010, the success and accuracy of the attacks partially put the earlier criticisms to rest with more than 800 militants killed against 60 civilians.
The United States gives Pakistan at least $1bn or sometimes $2bn a year in aid for its cooperation in attacking al Qaida and its allies in Pakistan. The Pakistani economy is in a terrible shape and the Pakistani government is reliant on the United States. Peter Bergen, New America Foundation
Channel 4 News investigated the legality of the CIA involvement with drone attacks in Pakistan. Legal questions have been asked whether such action can be conducted against Pakistan, a country with which the US is not currently in an official armed conflict, whilst the severe loss of civilian lives could also be in contravention of International Law.
Pakistan’s government publicly condemns the strikes despite suggestions that some of the intelligence used to target areas is supplied by Pakistani security services. It is also believed that despite the raised tensions because of the Raymond Davis case that the financial relationship between the US and Pakistan is too strong a relationship for it to be put under threat.
Mr Bergen told us: “This will pass – the Pakistani American alliance on the issue of the war on terror since 9/11 has been a fairly strong one. The United States gives Pakistan at least $1bn or sometimes $2bn a year in aid for its cooperation in attacking al-Qaeda and its allies in Pakistan. The Pakistani economy is in a terrible shape and the Pakistani government is reliant on the United States.”
Raymond Davis - diplomat or spy - just how much will his shootings affect US efforts in Pakistan?
Raymond Davis killed two alleged robbers on 25 January. They had pulled up in front of him at a red light in Lahore, minutes after he had visited a cash machine. Pulling a Glock pistol on the pair, Davis allegedly shot one and then the second as he was running away.
Davis was arrested for the killings despite claims he was acting in self-defence. The Obama Administration called for his release on the grounds that he was on attachment to the US Consulate and therefore benefitted from diplomatic immunity.
Pakistan officials say that Davis used excessive force, one of the robbers being found 30 yards from his motorcycle and shot twice in the back.
The plot thickened further when The Guardian newspaper alleged that Mr Davis was actually a CIA agent. In his vehicle at the scene police reportedly found a long-range radio, an infra-red torch and a camera containing pictures of buildings around Lahore. Even if it is decided he is entitled to diplomatic immunity, the fact that one of the victims appears to have been running away could mean that this defence would be withdrawn and Mr Davis tried for murder.
Other reports have claimed that the dead Pakistanis were members of the Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency (ISI) tasked with tracing Davis's movements. These two intelligence departments have so far shared intelligence to target specific locations in the drone campaign.
Whatever the connections to secret services, or the issue of diplomatic immunity, it has caused dangerous poltical fallout both in Pakistan and the US.
The refusal to release Raymond Davis has caused anger from US politicians who have made calls for the annual aid given to Islamabad to be slashed from it's current $1.5billion (£900m).
Channel 4 special report and interactive map: Pakistan drone warfare