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US Lacks Transparency on Drone Policy Despite Children's Deaths - NGO

CC BY-SA 2.0 / KAZ Vorpal / Predator KAZUS Predator drone
US Predator drone - Sputnik International
Pentagon's admitted partial responsibility in the death of two children was meant to divert attention from more widespread abuses, critics of the US government’s drone strikes claim.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Critics of the US government’s drone strikes told Sputnik that the US Department of Defense's admitted partial responsibility in the death of two children was meant to divert attention from more widespread abuses.

"I think the Pentagon is covering for something larger and creating a cover story that it can use to have an appearance of transparency," Judith Bello of Drones Watch, a coalition to monitor regulate drone use, told Sputnik on Friday.

On Thursday, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) acknowledged that an airstrike near the Syrian town of Harim in November 2014 probably killed two children.

"We regret the unintentional loss of lives," Lt. General James Terry, Commander the US-led Coalition's Operation Inherent Resolve said in a statement.

David Swanson, co-founder of the WarIsACrime.org activist group, told Sputnik US drone strikes have also killed children in Yemen.

"In recent days, I've been watching videos of children killed in Yemen by Saudi Arabia with US missiles and support."

Swanson referred to "the hundreds of children the US has killed with missiles from drones in just a few countries."

Melinda Pillsbury-Foster of the activist group Drone Free Zone told Sputnik the problem of widespread civilian casualties should have been tackled by US authorities long before.

"The number of children killed by drone, and the problems with the technology and use of drones, has been known for more than a decade," she said.

US Predator drone - Sputnik International
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Pillsbury-Foster criticized US President Barack Obama and his predecessor George W. Bush for failing to do "the right thing" with regards to ending drone strikes and holding the people involved in civilian deaths accountable.

She said, what was really required was "a complete withdrawal, prosecution of those responsible and the payment of reparations to those harmed."

Swanson, however, added that the Department of Defense has continued to practice a policy of blanket denial on the problem of civilian casualties caused by drone strikes.

"The Pentagon doesn't admit to any of this," he said.

The Defense Department only "sometimes admits to isolated incidents that have been widely reported," Swanson noted.

Bello noted that US drone strikes were based on limited and often flawed intelligence "provided by spies on the ground, who often have agendas that are separate from US interests.”

She pointed out that the information has been therefore incomplete and potentially very misleading.

"To lessen the risk of civilian casualties, the US would have to coordinate with the Syrian government and the Syrian Arab Army who have reliable information about civilians on the ground," Bello said.

The United States has been conducting airstrikes in Syria since 2014 in an attempt to counter the advance of Islamic State militants who have seized control over large territories in the country, as well as in Iraq.

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