David Cameron Proudly Announces He Drone Kills Too

After previous reporting had already claimed US credit for the kill,

A Cardiff man who is one of three from the city to have joined a jihadist group in Syria has died, BBC Wales has been told.

Reyaad Khan, 21, was killed in a US drone strike at the end of August.

And after the WaPo rolled out claims that our latest “secret” drone killing theater operates under new-and-improved rules,

The CIA and U.S. Special Operations forces have launched a secret campaign to hunt terrorism suspects in Syria as part of a targeted killing program that is run separately from the broader U.S. military offensive against the Islamic State, U.S. officials said.

[snip]

Hussain, the 21-year-old British militant killed last month, was moved toward the top of the target list after being linked to one of two gunmen killed in Garland, Tex., this year after opening fire at a cartoon contest that invited participants to draw pictures of the prophet Muhammad.

Hussain is not known to have been directly involved in the Islamic State’s gruesome beheadings of Western hostages or other violence. The decision to kill him makes clear that even militants involved only in the Islamic State’s media efforts are regarded as legitimate U.S. military targets.

In the past, the Obama administration has stressed that it was not targeting terrorism suspects involved only in propaganda. When Anwar al-Awlaki, an American cleric, was killed in Yemen in 2011, officials emphasized that he had become directly involved in terrorist operations.

A senior administration official said that Hussain “was more than a propagandist. He was actively involved in recruiting [Islamic State] sympathizers in the West to carry out attacks, and he was specifically focused on orchestrating operations targeting U.S. service members as well as government officials.”

Hussain was tracked in part by monitoring his online activities, according to officials who said that the British government had been consulted on the decision to make him a target.

David Cameron has now claimed credit for killing.

The UK government ordered an RAF drone strike which targeted and killed two British Islamic State fighters in Syria last month, David Cameron has said.

Cardiff-born Reyaad Khan was targeted in Raqqa on 21 August and died alongside Ruhul Amin, from Aberdeen, and another fighter, the PM told MPs.

Khan, 21, had been plotting “barbaric” attacks on British soil, he said.

The “act of self defence” was lawful, Mr Cameron said, despite MPs previously ruling out UK military action in Syria.

Khan was killed in a precision strike by a remotely piloted aircraft, “after meticulous planning”, while he was travelling in a vehicle, the prime minister said.

Another British national, Junaid Hussain, from Birmingham, was killed in a separate air strike by US forces in Raqqa on 24 August, the prime minister confirmed.

Both had been planning to attack “high-profile public commemorations” taking place in the UK this summer, he said.

Lawyers on both sides of the Atlantic are already raising questions about the legality of this strike (and given European Human Rights law, it’s at least possible Cameron will have to offer more of an explanation than Obama has offered for killing Anwar al-Awlaki). I’m also interested in what has changed from the time when the UK stripped people of their nationality so we could drone kill them (as we’ve done repeatedly in Somalia). And why a country that was so sensitive about British Telecom’s role in drone operations in Djibouti is proudly announcing this now.

Is it because this strike helps to lay the case for more war-making in Syria?

But there’s something else I’m wondering. Who is flying what over Syria? The US and UK can’t fly drones without either Bashar al-Assad’s blessing or certainty what used to be considerable air defenses have been neutralized.

Moon of Alabama has been wondering the same thing too.

[T]he most curious issue in the piece is the description of the “drone” attack that helped to fend off attacking Nusra fighters. No drone I am aware of and certainly not the “Predator” are equipped with automatic weapons like machine guns. The Drones carry fire-and-forget missiles or bombs but no drone has the necessarily heavy rotating tower and swiveling weapon holder that would allow the use of automatic weapons. “Automatic fire from the sky” as the reporter describes from the video he has seen can only have come from manned helicopters. Or is there some other explanation that I miss?

If there were helicopters who’s birds were these? U.S. or Turkish? Are there more of these flying over Syria and to what purpose? And what would be the Search & Rescue assets that could be used should such a bird come down involuntarily?

Something we are not told about is happening at the Turkish-Syrian border. Is that the reason why the Russians, despiteU.S. efforts to hinder them, prepare air fields for the delivery of new air assets to the Syrian army?

Russia is being painted as the aggressor here. But the story of trans-Atlantic drone successes, whatever the underlying truth, suggests some outside force has been successful at doing more than winning ground battles.

Update: Meant to include this, from the WaPo story, because I find it interesting a story about drones introduces ambiguity both about where the drones might have been launched, but also an acknowledgement there’s more coming out of Jordan (and presumably Turkey).

The U.S. military and European allies operate fighter jets and other aircraft from the Muwaffaq Salti Air Base in Jordan, a highly secured compound that was used earlier this year by a Jordanian pilot who was captured by the Islamic State and burned alive.

The United States also flies drones from bases in Turkey, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, where the al-Udeid Air Base serves as the Middle East headquarters of the U.S. Special Operations Command.

Update: In his tweet on this, Cameron said the Brits used an RAF “aircraft;” he didn’t say drone (which uses fewer characters).

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 3.03.43 PM

 

Update: Though in Cameron’s statement, he clearly says it was a remotely piloted aircraft.

Mr Speaker, in recent weeks it has been reported that 2 ISIL fighters of British nationality who had been plotting attacks against the UK and other countries have been killed in airstrikes. Both Junaid Hussain and Reyaad Khan, were British nationals based in Syria who were involved in actively recruiting ISIL sympathisers and seeking to orchestrate specific and barbaric attacks against the West, including directing a number of planned terrorist attacks right here in Britain, such as plots to attack high profile public commemorations, including those taking place this summer.

We should be under no illusion. Their intention was the murder of British citizens. So on this occasion we ourselves took action. Today I can inform the House that in an act of self-defence and after meticulous planning Reyaad Khan was killed in a precision air strike carried out on 21 August by an RAF remotely piloted aircraft while he was travelling in a vehicle in the area of Raqqah in Syria.

In addition to Reyaad Khan who was the target of the strike, 2 ISIL associates were also killed, 1 of whom – Ruhul Amin, has been identified as a UK national. They were ISIL fighters and I can confirm there were no civilian casualties.

Mr Speaker, we took this action because there was no alternative. In this area, there is no government we can work with. We have no military on the ground to detain those preparing plots. And there was nothing to suggest that Reyaad Khan would ever leave Syria or desist from his desire to murder us at home. So we had no way of preventing his planned attacks on our country without taking direct action.

The US administration has also confirmed that Junaid Hussain was killed in an American airstrike on 24 August in Raqqah.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

17 replies
  1. seedeevee says:

    The American public is rapidly losing its ability to believe in “self-defense” defenses from public officials. First the police and now, hopefully, the war makers.

    • jo6pac says:

      “The American public is rapidly losing its ability to believe in “self-defense” defenses from public officials. First the police and now, hopefully, the war makers.”

      This and other public rights have been going bye-bye for some time and now the less than .00% are doubling down. The coup in Amerika is over as pointed out on this site and others. The fight has become a sad thingy.

  2. orionATL says:

    wikipedia says :

    “…. Predator and Reaper UCAVs carry the Hellfire II, but the most common platform is the AH-64 Apache helicopter gunship, which can carry up to 16 of the missiles at once. ..”

  3. bloopie2 says:

    “Something we are not told about is happening at the Turkish-Syrian border.” We need to put up a privately owned satellite that will give us a constant view of that area, unencumbered by the US government. Or has Washington laid claim to space, as well?

  4. bloopie2 says:

    I wonder. If a Middle-Eastern origin ship moved into international waters off the East Coast, how long would it last before the Navy would obliterate it? Maybe long enough to launch a bunch of drones capable of flying 16+ miles?

  5. galljdaj says:

    A few basics on the bullshit two mouthed leaders and their hench-men and women:
    We are at war! Do the Rules of War apply? Does our team respect them?

    Do the peoples we are making war on have the same ‘rights’?

    By Our targets, can we say who the legitimate targets are on Our Side of the War are? Who are the war support team in the US? Britain? Germany? and the rest of the hen houses?

    Then how many of ‘these targets’ have seen an attempt at killing them? Almost None is my guess. And. If that is true, then the evidence says Our Gang is a bunch of lying war criminals!

    Is this bunch worse than the Monarchs of the 14th-17th C?

    • bloopie2 says:

      Good point. UK is at war with ISIL. That gives UK the right to go where ISIL is, and kill its warriors who are planning to attack the UK. By that standard, shouldn’t ISIL have the right to come into the UK and kill UK warriors who are planning to attack ISIL? Or would that be terrorism? What’s the difference?

  6. Don Bacon says:

    They are killing people for their supposed “desires” and “intentions,” just like they have sanctioned and threatened to kill people in Iran for their concocted (nuclear) “ambitions.” …..Forget “nation of laws” and beware of the thought police.

  7. Don Bacon says:

    WaPo

    “…the Obama administration has turned again to two of its preferred weapons against terrorist groups: the [CIA] CTC, which pioneered the use of armed drones and led the search for Osama bin Laden, and [Special Forces] JSOC, which includes the elite commando unit that carried out the raid that killed the al-Qaeda chief.

    Memories of Operation Phoenix in Vietnam, overseen by the CIA and run on the ground by Special Forces, which included tens of thousands of assassinations, sick tortures etc plus throwing people out of helicopters.
    .
    So we can be sure that drone assassinations is not the entirety of the misdeeds.

  8. IAN TURNER says:

    While you express concern about the (British) definition of legality concerning British subjects being killed by “unmanned aircraft” in Syria & the region you should be aware of a one or two points that the standard US analysis does NOT include:

    a)The TELEGRAPH [which used to be called “The Morning Post & Daily Telegraph”—and as The Morning Post was the newspaper that Winston Churchill was a war correspondent for in the retaking of Khartoum in 1898—& is often referred to as “Britain’s FOR KING & COUNTRY newspaper”] is currently claiming that at least two of those killed were associated with a publicized plot to kill Queen Elizabeth II on or around the VE & VJ Day celebrations this year
    By the [still existing] TREASON ACT 1351 “planning to kill my Lord Sovereign,the King” is by the Statute’s very definition HIGH TREASON.

    b) you are perfectly correct that Mr Cameron will be required to give a more fulsome explanation than the existing one—British subjects are still entitled to have the cause of one’s death determined by a jury of one’s peers–the so called INQUEST JURIES at INQUEST TRIAL’s & ,unless it can be shown that the 2 or 3 individuals killed were NOT British subjects AT THE TIME OF THEIR DEATH I would expect full reports from the British press.

    I fear your standard US analysis forgot that the abandonment of the right to have the cause of one’s death determined by an INQUEST JURY occurred FOR AMERICANS ONLY sometime between the 1930s [when many B-grade movies shown on Youtube have American murder/detective stories referring to “telling it to the Inquest” & 2014 [when many residents of Ferguson,Missouri called in vain for “an open hearing”(into the cause of a US citizen’s death)–which is what an Inquest is.

    BRITISH SUBJECTS HAVE NEVER RELINQUISHED THAT RIGHT

    • Don Bacon says:

      Of course The Telegraph AKA the Daily Torygraph is going to support the government, and we’re all waiting breathlessly for the Cameron inquest jury on this matter, which of course won’t happen.
      .
      Also, without a British “director,” these attacks can’t happen, the story goes. Terrorist attacks are just that complicated. You need to have a map of London, and a newspaper — the list goes on. Only a Brit could do it. Winston Churchill would agree. Long live the queen.

    • orionATL says:

      “… BRITISH SUBJECTS HAVE NEVER RELINQUISHED THAT RIGHT …”

      well that’s comforting to know.

      it must one of the last of their rights the cameron government has not been able to get the british people supinely to relinquish. they’re as bad as the supine americans.

  9. wayoutwest says:

    I think the Russians helped set up the zones of control over Syria for the air war and the Syrians know not to penetrate Coalition airspace.

    The US did violate Syrian controlled airspace with a spy drone a few months ago and the Syrians shot it down.

    • wayoutwest says:

      If things had gone as planned Petraeus would be leading the Republican presidential race but his idiocy ended that plan. The best he can hope for now is rehabilitation but I doubt many people in power are listening to his or his minions rehash plans for Syria or Iraq. Both countries are already divided and the most powerful insurgent force in the region has plans and is developing the power to unite the whole region under the caliphate.

      I doubt that the West or anyone else can stop that transnational Idea but they will surely kill many people and leave much devastation trying to impose their will.

      Petraeus’ brilliant military plans amount to little more than trying to bribe segments of the insurgencies to not kill our operatives, it worked for a while in Anbar and allowed the US to escape. The promises of power sharing and money soon evaporated leading to the rise of the Islamic State.

      The tribal leaders in Syria know what happened to their counterpart in Iraq and they know that US promises are hollow and self serving so they will probably continue to treat US operatives just as al-Nusra treated Division 30 or how the CIA personnel were treated to a suicide bomber when they tried to turn an AQ member in Afghanistan.

  10. Les says:

    The latest date of his assassination comes after the date he was supposed to have carried out his attack. His last tweet came on July 6. The claim was that he was planning to attack the Queen in the ceremonies to commemorate V-J day in mid August. Shouldn’t he already be in Britain when they were supposedly hunting him down in Syria?

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