Jumaat, 18 Oktober 2013

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The Star Online: World Updates

Pakistan tells U.N. at least 400 civilians killed by drone strikes


UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Pakistan has confirmed that of some 2,200 people killed by drone strikes in the past decade, at least 400 were civilians and an additional 200 victims were deemed "probable non-combatants," a U.N. human rights investigator said on Friday.

Ben Emmerson, U.N. special rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism, also urged the United States to release its own data on the number of civilian casualties caused by its drone strikes.

Emmerson said Pakistan's Foreign Ministry told him it had recorded at least 330 drone strikes in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Pakistan's largely lawless region bordering Afghanistan, since 2004.

Clearing out militant border sanctuaries is seen by Washington as crucial to bringing stability to Afghanistan, particularly as the U.S.-led combat mission ends in 2014. Most, but not all, attacks with unmanned aerial vehicles have been by the United States. Britain and Israel have also used them.

In an interim report to U.N. General Assembly released on Friday, Emmerson said Pakistani government records showed that drone strikes had killed at least 2,200 people and seriously wounded at least 600 since 2004.

He said Pakistan had confirmed that "at least 400 civilians had been killed as a result of remotely piloted aircraft strikes and a further 200 individuals were regarded as probable non-combatants."

"Officials indicated that, owing to underreporting and obstacles to effective investigation, those figures were likely to be an underestimate" of civilian deaths, Emmerson said.

Emmerson, who visited Pakistan in March, noted that principal media monitoring organizations had recorded a "marked drop" in reported civilians casualties from drone strikes in the tribal areas during 2012 and the first half of 2013.

The tribal areas have never been fully integrated into Pakistan's administrative, economic or judicial system. They are dominated by ethnic Pashtun tribes, some of which have sheltered and supported militants over decades of conflict in Afghanistan.

"The involvement of CIA in lethal counter-terrorism operations in Pakistan and Yemen has created an almost insurmountable obstacle to transparency," Emmerson said.

"One consequence is that the United States has to date failed to reveal its own data on the level of civilian casualties inflicted through the use of remotely piloted aircraft in classified operations conducted in Pakistan and elsewhere."


During his Senate confirmation process in February, CIA director John Brennan said the closely guarded number of civilian casualties from drone strikes should be made public. The U.S. government, without releasing numbers, has sought to portray civilian deaths from these strikes as minimal.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, said at the time that she had been trying to speak publicly about the "very low number of civilian casualties" and to verify that number each year has "typically been in the single digits." However, she said she was told she could not divulge the actual numbers because they were classified.

In May, U.S. President Barack Obama signed a document that he said codified guidelines for the use of force against terrorists. He said before drone strikes were taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians would be killed or wounded.

Emmerson urged the United States to declassify to the maximum extent possible information "relevant to its lethal extraterritorial counter-terrorism operations; and to release its own data on the level of civilian casualties inflicted through the use of remotely piloted aircraft, together with information on the evaluation methodology used."

He reported that in Afghanistan, the U.N. mission said while casualties were likely underestimated, it had assessed that in recent years drones strikes appeared to have inflicted lower levels of civilian casualties than other air strikes.

Emmerson said "the United States appears to have succeeded in avoiding the infliction of large-scale loss of civilian life in Yemen" when carrying out drone strikes. "Nonetheless, there have been a number of incidents in which civilians have reportedly been killed or injured," he said.

"The most serious single incident to date was a remotely piloted aircraft attack on 2 September 2012 in which 12 civilians were reportedly killed in the vicinity of Rada'a," Emmerson said.

The full report can be viewed at: http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/68/389

(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

Colombia's ELN rebels release oil workers after brief capture - police


BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia's ELN rebels released three oil contractors hours after kidnapping them in the eastern province of Arauca on Friday, a police commander said, following an intensive air and ground search launched by security forces.

The contractors, all from Colombia, had been hauled from their car by men in military fatigues commonly used by the country's guerrillas, near the town of Arauquita close to the eastern border with Venezuela.

The kidnapping followed a spate of bomb attacks in the past 10 days that shut some of the Colombian oil industry's biggest oil and gas pipelines. The sector has enjoyed an influx of foreign investment because of improved security in the past decade.

"It appears to be another doing of the ELN as part of its escalation in terrorist activities," Arauca regional police commander Wilson Bravo said on local television, which reported that the kidnapped contractors were a geologist, an assistant and their driver.

Bravo later told Reuters the men had been released, and attributed it to the pressure the kidnappers faced after security forces quickly launched a search.

Local media said the contractors work on Colombia's second-biggest oil pipeline, the Cano Limon-Covenas, owned by Colombian state oil company Ecopetrol and U.S.-based Occidental Petroleum Corp. It transports crude along the border with Venezuela to Colombia's Caribbean coast.

The 480-mile (780-km), 80,000 barrel-per-day pipeline, has been functioning sporadically since three bomb attacks closed it this month. The attacks were attributed to leftist guerrillas.

The ELN, or National Liberation Army, which operates mostly in the country's northeast, is the smaller of Colombia's two guerrilla groups, with about 3,000 fighters. The FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, has about 8,000 fighters.

Both groups have been fighting the government in a bloody five-decade conflict estimated to have killed more than 200,000 people.

In August, the ELN released a Canadian geologist it had held hostage for seven months. President Juan Manuel Santos had said the release was a condition for ELN peace talks with the government, which the rebel group has expressed interest in pursuing.

Both guerrilla groups have attacked oil infrastructure with increasing frequency in the past year or two, even with peace talks proceeding between the government and FARC. Oil companies had to contend with attacks as frequent as every two to three days in 2012.

The ELN has battled a dozen governments since it was founded in 1964 and is considered a terrorist group by the United States and the European Union.

It has sought peace before, holding talks with the Colombian government in Cuba and Venezuela from 2002 to 2007.

(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Peter Murphy and Peter Cooney)

Guinea's ruling party falls short of majority in legislative vote


CONAKRY (Reuters) - President Alpha Conde's ruling party won 53 seats in Guinea's September 28 legislative election, falling short of securing an outright majority in the West African nation's 114-seat parliament, the electoral commission said on Friday.

Provisional results published by the commission showed that the main opposition UFDG party, led by Conde's rival, Cellou Dalein Diallo, won 37 seats while former Prime Minister Sidya Toure's UFR secured 10 seats.

Other smaller parties grabbed the remaining seats. No party was expected to win an outright majority and parties are expected to try to form coalitions following the long-delayed and tense election in the world's top bauxite producer.

Conde's RPG has been in power since 2010.

"The Electoral Commission will transmit the results to the Supreme Court, which is authorised to publish the final results," electoral commission president Bakary Fofana, told a news conference in Conakry.

The legislative vote is due to complete a long-delayed transition back to civilian rule following a 2008 military coup in Guinea, which is also home to some of the world's largest iron ore reserves.

Disputes over the results from a partial count of votes from various districts had raised fears of a resurgence of violence that killed about 50 people before the election.

Uncertainty over the vote, which was delayed by over two years, contributed to a dampening of enthusiasm of major mining firms, which have in recent years pledged billions of dollars in investments in Guinea, mainly for iron ore operations.

Opposition parties rejected earlier partial results alleging the government was rigging the vote. Last week they pulled their representatives out of the election's organising commission, and called for the vote to be annulled.

UFR's Toure said opposition parties were not aware and were not informed that provisional results were to be announced on Friday.

"We will meet tomorrow (Saturday) to make a decision in relation to these results. For now, we once again denounce the massive fraud that was orchestrated by the government," he said.

Toure did not give further details or say whether the opposition will lodge complaints with the Supreme Court.

Ruling party spokesman Moustapha Naite said though relieved by the announcement of the results, the party has filed complaints with the Supreme Court over results from some districts.

According to Guinea's law, parties have eight days to file complaints and the Supreme Court is expected to publish final results three days after that deadline.

(Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Sandra Maler and Paul Simao)

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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