Sun, Apr 03, 2016 - Page 7 News List

US drone strikes ‘careful’ of civilians, Obama says


US President Barack Obama reacts during a news conference at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington on Friday.

Photo: Bloomberg

US President Barack Obama on Friday said that “civilians were killed that should not have been” in past US drone strikes, but said the administration is now “very cautious” about striking where women or children are present.

Obama was asked at a news conference about an increase in the number of people targeted in drone strikes against extremists in Libya, Syria, Somalia and elsewhere.

“In the past, there was legitimate criticism that the legal architecture around the use of drone strikes was not as precise as it should have been,” Obama said. “There is no doubt that civilians were killed that should not have been.”

He added that, over the past several years, the administration has worked to prevent civilian deaths.

“In situations of war, you know, we have to take responsibility when we are not acting appropriately,” Obama said.

Recent drone and other airstrikes against extremist targets have killed large numbers of people. A strike on an Islamic State (IS) group training camp in western Libya in February killed more than 40 people; a drone strike in Somalia against al-Shabaab on March 5 killed 150 people. A drone strike in Yemen in February killed dozens.

The US came under heavy criticism for a drone strike several years ago against extremists in Yemen, which critics said hit a wedding party and killed women and children.

In October last year, an AC-130 gunship mistakenly hit a hospital in Afghanistan that was run by the charity organization Doctors Without Borders. The group has demanded that the strike be investigated as a war crime. The Pentagon disciplined several officers and enlisted personnel for their part in the attack.

Obama on Friday said the US uses “vigorous criteria” for getting intelligence on targeting, and that intelligence is “checked, double-checked, triple-checked before kinetic actions are taken.”

He said the US is targeting camps that are clearly “involved in and directing plots that could do the United States harm or are supporting [IS] activities or al-Qaeda activities.”

Then, “a strike will be taken,” he added.

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