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Obama: Review of hostage deaths may offer drone changes

In January, a U.S. drone strike aimed at an al-Qaida target in Pakistan accidentally killed an American and an Italian hostage. In response, President Obama has suggested that a review of the events could offer improvements and changes. Judy Woodruff reports.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Now: fallout from the killing of two hostages, one American, one Italian, in a U.S. drone strike. It touched off new questions today about just how effective, and precise, drone warfare can be in fighting terrorists. It also led to calls for more information on how the hostages died.

    For Italy's lawmakers, the issue was topic A, with the foreign minister saying there are still questions about the death of Giovanni Lo Porto.

  • PAOLO GENTILONI, Foreign Minister, Italy (through interpreter):

    I want to assure you that Italy will find a way to honor the memory of Giovanni. We will work to acquire all the possible information on the circumstances that led to the tragic error acknowledged yesterday by President Obama.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Lo Porto and American Warren Weinstein died in a drone strike in January in Northern Pakistan. U.S. officials say it took many weeks to confirm they'd been killed.

    In Pakistan today, the Foreign Ministry said the incident — quote — "demonstrates the risk and unintended consequences of the use of this technology that Pakistan has been highlighting for a long time."

    The hostages were killed by a so-called signature strike. These target suspicious activity, or a signature, indicating the likely presence of al-Qaida leaders. The U.S. has conducted drone strikes for years across Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia, though they have decreased significantly in more recent times.

    Many of the attacks inside Pakistan are signature strikes in the semiautonomous tribal region of Waziristan, along the Afghan border.

    Today, President Obama suggested revisions could be in order.

  • PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:

    We're going to review what happened. We're going to identify the lessons that can be learned and any improvements and changes that can be made. And we're not cavalier about what we do. And we understand the solemn responsibilities that are given to us.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The White House also said it's working to streamline information given to the families of hostages.

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