A project tracking drone
deaths in Pakistan

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Reported status


Case study

When a night-time attack hit a house in Mir Ali, at least four people were killed. These included the house’s owner, Zahirullah. Although he was described in initial reports as a ‘militant’, later investigations reveal a more complex picture.

Sources told the Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS), an Islamabad-based research organisation, that he owned a motorcycle and car business, and ran a store in Mir Ali bazaar. Locals also confirmed to a Bureau researcher that Zahirullah ran a general store in Mir Ali bazaar. ‘[M]any people who knew Zahirullah and his family claimed he wasn’t involved in militancy and had no links with al-Qaeda or Taliban,’ the researcher said. However, a few ‘insisted that Zahirullah had in the past fought in Afghanistan alongside the Taliban.’

On the evening of the attack, Zahirullah was hosting several men including a man described by media reports and Bureau researchers as an Australian convert named Saifullah, who had reportedly fought against US forces in Afghanistan.

Locals told Bureau researchers that Saifullah’s presence in the house did not necessarily mean Zahirullah was also a militant: ‘They said he couldn’t have refused to host a guest for a night or two in keeping with local traditions of hospitality.

But other local sources disagreed with this, saying the fact that he was hosting a militant would make him ‘a suspect’.

CRSS researchers reported that Zahirullah’s companions that evening were ‘local inhabitants and they had come to discuss some business matters’.

After having dinner, Zahirullah and his companions were offering Isha prayers at around 11pm when the hujra (male guest quarters) they were in was hit by a drone strike. At least four were killed, including Zahirullah.

Died 05/07/2011

Details of the strike

About the project

CIA drone strikes have killed over 2,500 people in Pakistan; many are described as militants, but some are civilians. This is a record of those who have died in these attacks.

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Covert drone war

A project by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism tracking drone strikes and other covert US actions in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

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The Bureau of Investigative Journalism

The Bureau is a not-for-profit research organisation based in London. It pursues in-depth journalism that is of public benefit.

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