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Drone strikes in Pakistan followed by increase in suicide attacks, AOAV study finds

Drone strikes in Pakistan were followed by additional suicide attacks in Pakistan, each causing an average of 20 deaths and 48 injuries, a new study has found.

The report, a collaboration between Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) and Professor Mike Spagat and Luqman Saeed of Royal Holloway University, investigated the relationship between drone strikes and suicide attacks in Pakistan.

In recent years, the US, UK and other NATO countries have emphasised drone strikes as a primary weapon of war and counter terrorism in a list of countries that includes Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia and Yemen. In the same period, the number of suicide attacks has risen sharply around the world. Between January 2011 and January 2019, for instance, there have been 199 confirmed drone strikes in Pakistan and 182 suicide bombings. The findings from this study appear to show that the two are linked, with drones strikes associated with a rise in suicide attacks.

Saeed, Spagat & Overton found that approximately one additional suicide attack occurred in Pakistan within 30 days of a drone strike between 2004 and 2016, causing an average of 20 deaths and 48 injuries.

Additionally, they found that there was slightly higher suicide attack activity on drone-strike days, but a more significant increase 3 days following a drone strike.

Iain Overton, an author on the study and Executive Director of AOAV, said of the findings: ‘Whilst this report does not claim cause and effect, our study does highlight the reality that there are more civilian casualties from suicide attacks after drone strikes in Pakistan. This is sufficiently statistically significant to suggest that US-led drone strikes there may be fuelling terror attacks – both of which are linked to high levels of civilian harm.  This research challenges the notion that nebulous non-state actors can be defeated using air-power, and raises significant concerns about the long-term impact on civilians from such use of force.’

For the full report, please see here.