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Pakistani sues CIA over drone strike

A Pakistani tribesman is seeking 500 million dollars in compensation from the CIA after his son and brother were killed in America’s covert drone war against Al-Qaeda, his lawyer said Monday.


Kareem Khan from North Waziristan, the district on the Afghan border where the US campaign has stepped up in recent months, said his house was hit by US missiles on December 31, 2009.

“That drone attack killed my son, my brother and a local man. We are not terrorists, we are common citizens,” he told a news conference.

Pakistani intelligence officials said at the time that four militants were killed in the US missile strike in the Mir Ali area.

“We need justice. We are innocent people,” Khan said Monday.

“Both were civilians and employees of the local government administration. A man who was working at my home was also killed in the attack”, Khan told the BBC.

Lawyer Mirza Shehzad Akbar said he would file a lawsuit in Pakistan and, if necessary, the International Court of Justice based in The Hague.

“This is not a political case, this is a private complaint,” Akbar said.

He told AFP that he had sent legal notices to US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, CIA director Leon Panetta and the CIA station chief in Islamabad through the US embassy in Pakistan.

“We have asked them to stop drone attacks in Pakistan and to pay my client 500 million US dollars’ compensation,” he said.

“If they fail to do so then we will file a lawsuit in an Islamabad court.”

A copy of the notices seen by AFP described the drone attacks as “illegal” and a violation of human rights.

But the US embassy said it had not received communications from the lawyer. Local lawyers and rights experts cast serious doubt on Khan lodging a case and doubted the practicality of summoning US officials in a Pakistani court.

The US drone strikes are deeply controversial in Pakistan and the identities of those killed are often impossible to confirm independently.

Pakistan’s semi-autonomous tribal belt has been described as an intelligence black hole, largely cut off to journalists and foreign aid workers.

The government publicly condemns the strikes as a violation of sovereignty and they have fanned anti-Americanism among the population.

“The people they have served notices to are in America and I don’t think that it’s practically possible to summon them,” said Mehdi Hasan, chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, condemning the drone strikes.

“This is just to try to build opinion and tell the world about this injustice and cruelty.”

More than 1,270 people have been killed US strikes since August 2008.

The United States does not confirm drone attacks, but its military and the Central Intelligence Agency are the only forces that deploy unmanned aircraft in the region.

The BBC reports that Mr Khan is a freelance journalist.

It’s thought to be the first case of its kind.

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