March 27, 2014
Three years ago last week, a U.S. drone strike hit the small town of Datta Khel in Pakistan. Local business owners and leaders were in the midst of a two-day tribal council meeting, called to address a dispute regarding a chromite mine in the area. Local authorities had been notified about the meeting, which is a traditional forum employed to resolve community conflicts.
As the second day of the meeting commenced, missiles fell from the sky, ripping into the gathered crowd. Shrapnel and rock ruptured outward from the blasts. A new video on the Datta Khel strike from Brave New Films speaks to the havoc wrought by the attack. Though estimates of casualties and injuries vary, a United Nations report released this month states that more than 40 people died in the Datta Khel strike. Another 14 were wounded. The impact of the attack was substantial – a large number of tribal elders were reportedly killed and wounded – and it devastated Datta Khel, as well as the surrounding communities. Pakistani officials strongly condemned the attack, calling it a violation of human rights.
The precise number of civilian casualties, again, varies depending on the source. The Bureau for Investigative Journalism has positively identified some civilian deaths. The U.N. report states that “the overwhelming majority of those killed or injured” in the Datta Khel strike were reportedly civilians. Despite media coverage and human rights investigations that covered the Datta Khel strike, the American government has not acknowledged that the strike occurred, or provided any other details on the incident. As such, it remains incredibly difficult to confirm numbers, identities, and other details of the victims of the Datta Khel strike – or any other U.S. drone attacks.