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President Obama expressed “profound regret” over the deaths of two hostages — an American and an Italian — in a drone strike on al-Qaida before praising what he described as his administration’s exceptionally transparent response to the tragedy.

The Guardian reports:

The US president spoke shortly after the White House announced that intelligence officials had concluded that the January counter-terrorism operation had “accidentally” killed Dr Warren Weinstein, a US government aid worker, and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian aid worker. …

Separately, the White House also disclosed that it had mistakenly killed two other Americans, both of whom were suspected of being high-level al-Qaida members but had not been specifically targeted.

Obama did not mention the two American al-Qaida members in the statement from the White House, in which he sought to explain how his counter-terrorism strike could have take[n] the lives of two hostages. Neither did he use the word “drone”. …

… the president struck a surprisingly defiant tone, insisting that his administration had acted on the best intelligence available at the time and claiming that his decision to declassify the operation and initiate a review was a sign of American exceptionalism.

The Guardian notes that, in spite of Obama’s self-praise for declassifying news of the disastrous strike, the vast majority of drone strikes remain shrouded in secrecy. One senator estimated such strikes killed 4,700 people in 2013.

Read more here.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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