CNN makes questionable claim that drone strike wounded Pakistani child

CNN has reported on the case of a young girl, Shakira, who was horrifically burned in Pakistan in 2009, supposedly in a US drone strike. The following is an excerpt from the CNN story [emphasis is mine]:

She will never look fully normal, but Effendi hopes the surgery will make it easier for Shakira to grow older and help others see what Effendi has seen all along: an effervescent bundle of love.

In 2009, Effendi was on a medical mission with Texas-based House of Charity in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. The region’s natural beauty was once compared to Switzerland’s, but by then it was a Taliban-infested area rife with violence.

One of the doctors found three little girls left in a trash bin. They’d suffered horrific injuries.

“Who are they?” the doctor asked.

Nobody knew.

Where were their parents? Where were they from?

All anyone could say is that there had been a U.S. drone attack. The girls were likely hurt in the strike.

There is a major problem this story: there has never been a report of a US Predator or Reaper airstrike in Swat. Ever. In fact, only four of the 53 drone strikes reported in Pakistan in 2009 took place outside of North and South Waziristan. Of those four strikes, two were in Kurram, one was in Bannu, and one was in Arakzai.

What is more likely is that Shakira was horrifically disfigured by her own nation’s military, and not by US drones. Beginning in May 2009, the Pakistani Army launched an offensive in Swat to oust Mullah Fazlullah’s branch of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, which ruled the Swat Valley for more than two years prior. The Pakistani military used brutal tactics, including indiscriminate air and artillery strikes, against the Taliban and civilians alike. And during the “cleanup” phase, the military was known to summarily execute anyone suspected of being Taliban [you can watch a video of that here].

Note: CNN has changed the story sometime today to include the statement that Shakira may or may not have been wounded in a US drone strike (the original story was published on Dec. 21, and the text quoted above was valid up until sometime after 7:30 p.m. EST on Dec. 28). The CNN story was not updated to note that the change was made. Here is the new wording of the article [emphasis mine]:

One of the doctors found three little girls left in a trash bin.

“Who are they?” the doctor asked.

Nobody knew.

Where were their parents? Where were they from?

All anyone could say is that there had been a U.S. drone attack, though U.S. officials say that drones have never struck targets in Swat.

It was not known how the girls came to be where they were but one thing was clear: they’d suffered horrific injuries.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • roshani says:

    It was in 2008, that there was one drone strike in Sawat, nearly 32 Pakistani soilders were killed. I am not not sure about the civilian injuries but the soilders death due to drone are 100% confirm..

  • Neonmeat says:

    A typical example of sloppy biased reporting that characterises a lot of what the msm puts out regarding Military Operations.
    The writer of this article should be ashamed, by naming them as supposed victims of a Drone strike they inflame tensions between Pakistan and the US and helps reinforce the opinion among the Pakistani people that the US is out there purposely or indiscriminately killing civilians.
    A real journalist would not state ‘All anyone could say is that there had been a U.S. drone attack.’, they would ask who says this? How can they know it is a drone and not artillery or manned aircraft? Not just report what some confused angry locals say and present it as facts.
    What is more interesting is that it ignores the fact that these injured girls were found in a trash bin! Does this not warrant some more attention?

  • Nic says:

    @ LWJ Land: Does anyone know of other spin stories that sank after hitting a fact checking? Remember China’s use of footage from “Top Gun” SOURCE:

  • namvet says:

    Another example of the slime-media, always opting for the most anti Americana position they can.

  • Joe says:

    Whoever wrote the original story seems to have no grasp of the situation. I don’t even believe that the insurgency in Swat ever had a great deal to do with ISAF or the USA. It was always a conflict between a the Pakistani state and those who wished to overthrow it, insofar as you can overthrow a fictional entity.

  • wallbangr says:

    Sad story for the little girl but one has to consider the sources relied upon (local Paks in the Swat valley) who are quick to pin all troubles anywhere on anything other than their own sad excuse for a government. Good eye, Bill.

  • Dave B says:

    1,660 reader comments on this article on the CNN website as of 12/28. Even after the article was corrected, it’s amazing how many folks want to believe that this little girl was injured in a drone attack, want to characterize this as an example of thousands of civilian casualties due to US drone attacks, and then use these supposed deaths and injuries to support their anti-war agenda.
    There are no doubt innocent deaths and injuries in US drone attacks. Each of those losses is a human tragedy. But there are thousands less deaths in the US, Middle East, and Africa, resulting from al Qaeda and Taliban atrocities, than there would be if the US allowed these enemies to bomb and murder their way to the Caliphate.
    Yes, Joe Biden, the Taliban, the guys who shoot at our sons and daughters, are our enemies.

  • blert says:

    I thought it was common knowledge that Islamabad NEVER permitted drones that far east.
    Swat is a MAJOR vacation destination for Pakistanis.
    Hence, is was and is entirely unsuitable for CIA ‘active operations.’
    Obviously, CNN does not vet lurid agitprop.

  • Devin Leonard says:

    What do you expect from CNN. They are a laughing stock of a news outfit. No wonder their ratings are in the toilet.

  • Jeff Edelman says:

    CNN in its update still can not bring itself to say the Pakistani military maybe responsible. This is why I’ve always trusted this new agency. Reporting that is without agenda and bias.

  • Charu says:

    To illustrate this shoddy work of fiction, CNN could borrow the graphic from Bill Keller’s abysmal NYT article on why the Pakistanis have a point (to be angry with the US).

  • OffendedMan says:

    CNN corrected the article at this URL:
    But this one still has the original language as of 12/30. I guess they’re sentimental about their lies:

  • Vern Messer says:

    What they failed to report on is the fact that these Talib sypathizers frequently discipline kids and women by pouring boiling water or oil on them.

  • Tyler says:

    Just a caveat…there have been no REPORTED drone strikes in Swat…but since the drone campaign is a covert operation that the CIA doesn’t officially acknowledge, its highly unlikely that all or even almost all the drone strikes in this region have been reported in the media at the time they occurred.


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