A U.S. military drone conducting a counterterrorism operation against al Qaeda has killed two innocent individuals: American Warren Weinstein and Italian national Giovanni Lo Porto in January, the White House confirmed Thursday.
The use of U.S. drones has always been under the spotlight of criticism for allegedly targeting civilians. However, this is the only time that the government, through president Barack Obama, has taken full responsibility.
“I take full responsibility” for inadvertently taking the lives of Warren and Giovani – Obama
“This morning, I want to express our grief and condolences to the families of two hostages. One American, Dr. Warren Weinstein, and an Italian, Giovanni Lo Porto, who were tragically killed in a U.S. counterterrorism operation,” Mr Obama said in his speech.
“As President and as Commander-in-Chief, I take full responsibility for all our counterterrorism operations, including the one that inadvertently took the lives of Warren and Giovanni. I profoundly regret what happened. On behalf of the United States government, I offer our deepest apologies to the families.”
Mr Obama said that the initial assessments indicated that the operation was fully consistent with the guidelines of how the government conducts its counterterrorism operations. He said that the area where Weinstein and Lo Porto were accidentally killed has been the government’s focus for four years because it is the home of al Qaeda leadership. The president explained that all intelligence made before the attack revealed that no civilians were present in the area.
“What we did not know, tragically, is that al Qaeda was hiding the presence of Warren and Giovanni in this same compound.”
Mr Obama’s speech was weighed down with emotions
“It is a cruel and bitter truth that in the fog of war generally and our fight against terrorists specifically, mistakes — sometimes deadly mistakes — can occur. But one of the things that sets America apart from many other nations, one of the things that makes us exceptional is our willingness to confront squarely our imperfections and to learn from our mistakes.”
Two humanitarians united by a spirit of service
Warren served with the Peace Corps and the United States Agency for International Development in his devotion to help people across Africa and South Asia. At the time of his abduction, he was serving as a USAID helping Pakistani families escape poverty.
Giovanni, on the other hand, is devoted to humanitarian missions around the world, particularly to the Central African Republic, Haiti and Pakistan.
Two other Americans were also killed in one of the government’s counterterrorism operations, the press secretary said in a separate statement.
“We have concluded that Ahmed Farouq, an American who was an al-Qa’ida leader, was killed in the same operation that resulted in the deaths of Dr. Weinstein and Mr. Lo Porto. We have also concluded that Adam Gadahn, an American who became a prominent member of al-Qa’ida, was killed in January, likely in a separate U.S. Government counterterrorism operation. While both Farouq and Gadahn were al-Qa’ida members, neither was specifically targeted, and we did not have information indicating their presence at the sites of these operations.”
U.S. Drone Debate
On October 2012, a drone strike in Pakistan killed a 68-year-old grandmother, and on July 6 2012, 18 male laborers and a boy were killed in a series of U.S. drone strikes, according to a report from Amnesty International titled “’Will I be Next?’ US Drone Strikes in Pakistan.”
“The circumstances of civilian deaths from drone strikes in northwest Pakistan are disputed. The USA, which refuses to release detailed information about individual strikes, claims that its drone operations are based on reliable intelligence, are extremely accurate, and that the vast majority of people killed in such strikes are members of armed groups such as the Taliban and al-Qa’ida,” the report said.
U.S. drone strikes in Yemen have violated international law, Human Rights Watch said in a separate report. The report titled “Between a Drone and Al-Quaeda: The Civilian Cost of US Targeted Killings in Yemen” reveals that attacks by U.S. in 2009 and the rest from 2012-2013 “killed civilians indiscriminately in clear violation of the laws of war; the others may have targeted people who were not legitimate military objectives or caused disproportionate civilian deaths.”
“The US says it is taking all possible precautions during targeted killings, but it has unlawfully killed civilians and struck questionable military targets in Yemen,” the report said.
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