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NGOs call on US government to reveal drone ca -

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TONY EASTLEY: The White House insists the deaths of civilians in US drone strikes cannot be labelled as war crimes and that the attacks against militants are precise and effective.

A joint report by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International is calling on the Obama administration to "come clean" on how many people it's killed.

Correspondent Lisa Millar reports.

LISA MILLAR: The report's authors admit that each drone strike is difficult to verify, but they've taken a handful of cases and found multiple witnesses, like the death of 68-year-old Mamana Bibi on a sunny October day last year. Amnesty International's Mustafa Qadri says she was doing nothing to warrant targeting.

MUSTAFA QADRI: Her grandchildren recounted in painful detail to Amnesty International the moment when she was blown into pieces in front of their very eyes while she was gathering vegetables.

LISA MILLAR: Letta Tayler from Human Rights Watch spoke of the deaths in Yemen of 12 people travelling in a van. She says the US was targeting an Al Qaeda militant.

LETTA TAYLER: But that target was nowhere in sight. It turned out that all 12 people killed were villagers coming home from market. Their loved ones found their charred bodies in pieces on the roadside, dusted in flour and sugar that they were bringing home to their families.

LISA MILLAR: The US has carried out hundreds of drone assisted missile strikes, the numbers increasing during the presidency of Barack Obama. But Amnesty says the administration's secrecy makes reporting of the program difficult.

In May, president Obama spoke at the National Defense University and promised to narrow the parameters for the use of drones to limit collateral casualties. And today the White House spokesman Jay Carney defended the administration's policies.

JAY CARNEY: They are lawful and they are effective and the United States does not take lethal strikes when we or our partners have the ability to capture individual terrorists.

We take extraordinary care to make sure that our counterterrorism actions are in accordance with all applicable domestic and international law and that they are consistent with US values and US policy.

LISA MILLAR: Naureen Shah from Amnesty International says there's been no new information from the administration since the president's speech.

NAUREEN SHAH: We're asking president Obama to come clean about who the US government is killing, not just to make a pledge of transparency or make a promise that things are going right, but to say who is being killed, how many people have been killed and what the legal and factual justification for these killings was.

LISA MILLAR: The drone program has given the US major diplomatic headaches, especially with Pakistan, which has publicly opposed the attacks. It's a subject that's likely to be near the top of the agenda when Barack Obama and Pakistan's prime minister Nawaz Sharif meet in Washington tomorrow.

This is Lisa Millar in Washington for AM.