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Minister admits British Afghan drone strikes have doubled

Official figures show big increase in unmanned airstrikes

Ministers have been forced to admit that the number of British-controlled unmanned drone strikes in Afghanistan has jumped dramatically in the last five years.

And data released by Defence Minister Andrew Robathan also revealed the percentage of missions in which drones have used weapons also doubled between 2008 and 2012.

Responding to a question by Green MP Caroline Lucas, Mr Robathan said there were 296 missions over Afghanistan in 2008 and on 14 of those occasions one or more missiles was deployed by a British-operated Reaper drone.

But there were 892 missions by British drones last year, with weapons being fired on 92 occasions.

The government announced last October it was doubling the number of armed Reaper drones to 10, with the new aircraft being operated from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire.

The hi-tech unmanned aircraft are capable of carrying 500lb bombs and Hellfire missiles for strikes on insurgents.

Mr Robathan also said that up until July 31 this year there had been 466 deployments by British-operated drones in Afghanistan with missiles fired on 36 occasions.

Ms Lucas said: “Drone warfare has terrible consequences. It is responsible for the indiscriminate killing of thousands of innocent civilians, undermines our moral authority and is likely to be counterproductive.

“As we move towards forms of combat that reduce the enemy to blips on a screen, there is an increasing danger that we forget the horrors of war, and the deterrents they provide.

“Even in cases where the intended victim is killed, drone strikes represent the death penalty imposed from distance and without trial.

“It is amazing the government can claim that the presence of aircraft has no psychological impact on the people of Afghanistan. It is also deeply worrying that they cannot say how long drones are flying over civilian communities.”

CND general secretary Kate Hudson added: “The sharp rise in the use of drones by the UK is a chilling development. The Ministry of Defence has doubled the number of drones it is using in Afghanistan in the past year — and Mr Robathan’s admission of the rising number of missions and missiles fired is just another indicator of the growth of this horrendous practice.”

Next week anti-arms campaigners will stage protests against one of the world’s largest arms fairs the Defence and Security Equipment International as it opens in London.

And campaigners will gather outside the Excel Centre in Docklands, east London, on Monday in protest against the use and sale of drones.
The demonstration, which begins at 10am, has been organised by CND, War on Want, Caat, Drone Wars UK, Stop the War Coalition and Fellowship of Reconciliation.


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