The US drone strikes have accidentally killed up to 116 civilians in countries that the US is not at war with, the White House said. The number is lower than the figures cited by various human rights organizations.
No information was released on the number of unintended civilian deaths in countries the US is at war with, however.
The long-awaited announcement came on Friday afternoon acknowledges that between 64 and 116 civilians were killed by US drone operations in Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and other African countries, compared to 2,500 members of terrorist groups.
Deaths resulting from strikes in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria were not counted in the report.
The government said that the number of civilian deaths from drone strikes isn’t always clear, meaning that the numbers it released may be revised. The total is far lower than estimates made by non-governmental organization.
“As the statement today from the DNI notes, in releasing these figures, the U.S. Government also acknowledges that there are differences between U.S. Government assessments and reporting from non-governmental organizations on non-combatant deaths resulting from U.S. operations,” the White House said. “Although the U.S. Government has access to a wide range of information, the figures we are releasing today should be considered in light of the inherent limitations on the ability to determine the precise number of combatant and non-combatant deaths outside areas of active hostilities, including the non-permissive environments in which these strikes often occur. “
Jennifer Gibson, a lawyer from the human rights organization Reprieve, estimates that more than 4,000 people have been killed by drones including hundreds of children, and said the Obama administration’s estimation of casualties “is unlikely to be worth the paper it’s printed on.”
Drone strikes in countries that are not technically US battlefields are the purview of the CIA and the US military’s secretive Joint Special Operations Command. Critics point out that the White House wouldn’t even mention the word “drone” for years, and that no entity outside of the administration reviews strikes.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that official warzones are being excluded from the count because drone assassinations in those areas are done by the Pentagon, which has its own process of disclosing civilian deaths.
CIA Director John Brennan and Dianne Feinstein, top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, has previously put the estimates for civilian at single digits per year.