The short answer is we don’t know. Mamana Bibi, a 68-year-old grandmother, was killed by a U.S. drone strike on October 24th, 2012, as she picked vegetables in her family’s fields and while her grandchildren were nearby.
One of the grandchildren, Nabeela, who was 8 years old at the time and injured in the strike, told Amnesty International:
“The explosion was very close to us. It was very strong, it took me into the air and pushed me onto the ground…I saw her shoes. We found her mutilated body a short time afterwards…It had been thrown quite a long distance away by the blast and it was in pieces. We collected as many different parts from the field and wrapped them in a cloth…I wasn’t scared of drones before, but now when they fly overhead I wonder, will I be next?”
Nabeela’s heart-breaking testimony is part of Amnesty International’s new in-depth report ‘Will I Be Next?: U.S. Drone Strikes in Pakistan.’ She is also pictured on the cover and speaks in this short video about Mamana Bibi and her family.
Amnesty’s report – issued today in conjunction with Human Rights Watch’s new report ‘Between a Drone and Al-Qaeda: The Civilian Cost of U.S. Targeted Killings in Yemen’ - examines all 45 reported U.S. drone strikes that occurred between January 2012 and August 2013 in North Waziristan, the region in Pakistan where the vast majority of drone strikes have occurred. Amnesty conducted detailed field research into nine strikes, including the strikes that killed Mamana Bibi, based on rare access to the region and more than 60 interviews with survivors, eyewitnesses, residents and officials.
Amnesty International analyzed the killings under international human rights law and international humanitarian law(the law of armed conflict) and is seriously concerned that these and other strikes have resulted in unlawful killings that may constitute extrajudicial executions or war crimes.
Under international law, the burden is on the U.S. government to show that the killing of Mamana Bibi – and any others – was lawful. But in keeping with the overall lack of transparency surrounding the drone program, the Obama administration has said nothing public about the killing of Mamana Bibi and has kept its legal memos on the rationale for drone killing secret. President Obama must explain why and on what legal basis Mamana Bibi and others were killed, and follow the laws restricting the use of lethal force.
Congress, particularly the Armed Services and Intelligence Committees, must hold President Obama accountable to the law. It should start by launching a full, independent and impartial investigation into the killing of Mamana Bibi and all other cases documented in the reports by Amnesty and Human Rights Watch.