Drone war causing suffering on unprecedented scale in northwest Pakistan

AFP reports: After nine friends and relatives were killed in a US drone strike four years ago, Mohammed Fahim took tranquillisers to blot out the nightmares.

The 19 year-old is one of a growing number of Pakistanis living in the tribal areas on the Afghan border who has suffered from conditions related to depression, anxiety and mental health problems because of war.

US drone strikes, fighting between Pakistani Taliban and the army, mass displacement, chronic unemployment and disillusionment are all causing mental suffering on an unprecedented scale in northwest Pakistan, say psychiatrists.

Mohammed lost an eye in the January 2009 attack, but the mental scarring has been even more traumatic. The flashbacks are still sudden and powerful.

“I feel like my head is exploding,” he says when he remembers how four uncles, a cousin and four neighbours died when they came round for tea in North Waziristan, the most notorious of Pakistan’s Taliban and Al-Qaeda bastions.

“We heard the sound of a missile. A fraction of a second later, they were all dead, their bodies mutilated,” says Mohammed, who happened to be in the other room when the missile struck.

He insists that no one in his family was associated with Islamist militancy. US officials say the covert drone war in Pakistan involves surgical, pin-pointed strikes against known killers that cause few if any civilian casualties.

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