Drones traumatising tribal area’s children


Lucky Escape: Naeema, wearing a black scarf, and Nabeela, wearing a red one, express their bitterness at the US drone strikes. Pic:Express Tribune

Islamabad: The buzz of US drones is like the death knell for tribesmen.

The United States claims that its no-more-covert drone campaign is effective in fighting Al Qaeda and their cohorts – but it has unleashed a reign of terror in the tribal region.

Nabeela and Naeema – both cousins and below 10 – survived a recent drone attack in the Tappi area, 15 kilometres from Miramshah, the main town in North Waziristan Agency.

"I was watering animals and my three brothers were harvesting the maize crop when a drone struck," said Nabeela, 8, sitting alongside her father Rafiqur Rehman in a guest house in Islamabad. Eight members of her family were wounded. Shrapnel from the missiles also hit Nabeela and Naeema. Subsequently, the family fled from their village, perhaps for good.

"I had spotted the drone before it rained missiles. Then I heard a huge explosion. The missiles landed and shrapnel hit all of us," Nabeela told The Express Tribune. "I do not want the US drones [to] fly over our villages again," she said, before urging that drone strikes be stopped.

Her cousin Naeema said she was playing with other children when the drone fired missiles, injuring her. "I was hit by shrapnel. I cried in pain as my arm bled," she said, recalling the horror.

According to a September 2012 US study, US drone strikes in Pakistan have killed far more civilians than the US has acknowledged, traumatised innocent tribesmen. The study by Stanford Law School and New York University's School of Law called for re-evaluation of the strategy, saying the number of "high-level" targets killed as a percentage of total casualties was extremely low – about 2 per cent, according to CNN.

Raise their voices
Rafiqur Rehman, whose mother was killed in the strike, asked: "Was my 65-year-old mother a terrorist or are these little girls terrorists?" He took Nabeela, Naeema and the rest of the injured family members to Islamabad for treatment.

Rehman condemned the gun attack on child activist Malala Yousafzai – but at the same time he said, "I want to ask our government and the world community as to why don't they raise [their] voice for our children."

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