The CIA's controversial drone
killings in Pakistan began with a secret deal in 2004 that gave the
US access to its airspace, The New York Times reported late Saturday.
The newspaper recounted how Islamabad agreed to let the CIA use a Predator drone to kill a Pakistani ally of the Taliban who led a tribal rebellion. The military had already marked him as an enemy of the state.
In exchange, Pakistan granted the CIA permission to use drones to hunt down and kill al-Qaeda suspects, the Times wrote.
The first target of a drone attack was identified as Nek Muhammad in South Waziristan. He was killed along with several other people including two boys age 10 and 16. Afterwards, the Pakistani military claimed responsibility for the attack, the report said.
Pakistan foreign ministry spokesman termed the report as "baseless and a part of the propaganda to create confusion about the clear position of Pakistan" on drone attacks.
"We have repeatedly affirmed that Pakistan regards the use of drone strikes as counterproductive" said Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry. "It violates Pakistan's sovereignty and it violates International Law."
The CIA's extensive use of drones against terrorist suspects began as it was under pressure over revelations about its secret prisons around the world used for captured terrorists.
The drone campaign has claimed hundreds if not thousands of lives, some of them innocent, provoking increasing animosity in Pakistan and raising questions in Washington about their use.
In late March, it was reported that the White House was trying to shift responsibility for the drone programme to the US military and out of the hands of the CIA.
The White House was circulating a draft directive to make sure the covert drone programme falls under the international laws of war, The Wall Street Journal and National Public Radio reported.
Under international law, the drone attacks would require the consent of affected governments, officials said.
Currently, both the military and the CIA operate drone attacks, which have provoked outrage in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and elsewhere for civilian casualties.
During confirmation hearings for new CIA chief John Brennan, both Republicans and Democrats criticized the Obama administration for its secrecy about the use of drones.
The White House reportedly had to promise more transparency in the drone programme in order to get Senate approval of Brennan.
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