Pakistan: thousands march against US drone strikes

More than 10,000 marched in the northwest Pakistan city of Peshawar Jan. 23 to protest US drone attacks, a day after at least 13 were killed in three drone strikes in North Waziristan region. Activists from the country's largest Islamist party, Jamaat-i-Islami, blocked a main road and staged a six-hour vigil outside the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial parliament.

On Jan. 21, a similar protest was held in Miranshah and surrounding villages in the North Waziristan region of the Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA), which has borne the brunt of the drone strikes. In Mir Ali village, hundreds of protesters chanted, "Anyone who is a friend of the US is a traitor!" Protest leaders called for US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and the former CIA station chief in Islamabad to be brought to justice. "They should be arrested and punished by the courts in America," said student leader Abdul Khan.

In 2010, US drone attacks doubled over the previous year, with 124 strikes claiming nearly 1,200 lives, by Pakistani estimates. Washington claims the raids target militants, who cross the Pakistani border into Afghanistan. But locals say civilians are the main victims of the attacks, which have no UN sanction. According to Pakistani sources, the strikes kill nearly 50 civilians for every militant they target—giving them a hit rate of two percent. The strikes, initiated by President George W. Bush, have escalated under President Barack Obama. (Press TV, Iran, CNN, AFP, Jan. 23)

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