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Rights Groups Say Drone Strikes Kill More Civilians than U.S. Admits

Rights groups decry drone strikes

A Predator unmanned aircraft prepares for takeoff. U.S. officials have portrayed drone strikes as both lawful and clinically precise, but two rights groups are disputing that based on investigations of attacks in Yemen and Pakistan. (Julianne Showalter / U.S. Air Force / November 8, 2012)

WASHINGTON — U.S. airstrikes in Yemen and Pakistan have killed far more civilians than American officials acknowledge, and many of the attacks appear to have been illegal under international law, according to a pair of reports by human rights organizations based on interviews with survivors and witnesses.

The reports by Amnesty International, which looked into nine strikes in Pakistan, and Human Rights Watch, which examined six attacks in Yemen, also assert that the U.S. has killed militants when capturing them was a feasible option. In Pakistan, Amnesty found that U.S. missiles have targeted rescuers and other groups of people in an indiscriminate manner that increased the likelihood of civilian deaths.

The reports, distributed in advance to The Times and other news organizations, are to be released at a news conference Tuesday morning in Washington.

The CIA had no comment, and the White House declined to respond in detail, but it pointed out that President Obama in May announced tighter rules of engagement that he said would make it less likely civilians would be killed or injured in targeted strikes. Most of the attacks detailed in the two reports took place before Obama’s speech.

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