The targeting by American Predator and Reaper UAVs of terrorists along the Afghan-Pakistan border is being aided by GPS tracking devices placed covertly in the suspects’ vehicles, according to media reports. Earlier this month, Pakistan and Western media reported that car mechanics in the tribal areas suspected of fitting the devices had been murdered by a Taleban counter-intelligence unit.
Now, a British lawyer has claimed that two innocent Pakistani youths were killed on October 31 in a strike that followed three days after one of them attended a protest meeting in Islamabad. The meeting was attended by tribal leaders and Western human rights activists, who are attempting to document civilian casualties that they allege have been caused by the UAV strikes in the tribal areas. Clive Stafford Smith told The Times newspaper in London that a CIA informant must have attended the meeting, and subsequently caused the device to be fitted to the youths’ vehicle.
Predators and Reapers usually carry laser-guided Hellfire missiles or GBU-12 bombs that are designated by the UAV’s own sensor ball. But GPS homing is also available on dual-mode bombs and rockets, including Raytheon’s Small Tactical Munition that was specifically designed for UAVs.
U.S. officials are reluctant to discuss the UAV operations along the border, which are conducted by the CIA rather than U.S. military personnel. However, American counter terrorism chief John Brennan last year denied that the strikes have killed civilians. Tribal leaders dispute this. The frequency of the attacks has increased recently, despite Pakistan’s avowed withdrawal of permission for American UAV flights from Shamsi airfield in Baluchistan. The operation was reportedly moved to Jalalabad in Afghanistan.
Other bases for unacknowledged American UAV operations in the Middle East and North Africa have been variously reported over recent months. They include Arba Minch, Ethiopia; Khamis Mushayat, Saudi Arabia,;and the newly opened Liwa airbase in the UAE.