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Americans ignore 'great risks,' travel to Pakistan to protest US drone strikes

A group of 32 American anti-drone activists will join a march to Pakistan's tribal areas, where U.S. strikes have killed thousands of people over the last eight years. NBC News Amna Nawaz spoke to some of them.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Dozens of anti-drone activists have traveled to Pakistan to join a march to the country's tribal areas, where more than 300 strikes have killed thousands of people in the last eight years.

The 32 members of Code Pink have ignored a State Department travel warning to take part in Pakistani presidential candidate Imran Khan's "peace rally" to the remote area bordering Afghanistan, where the vast majority of the nearly 350 US drone strikes in Pakistan have occurred.

"People are taking great risks to come here," said Medea Banjamin, co-director of Code Pink. "It shows the depth of conviction that we have to say that 'I don't want my government killing innocent people in my name and I'm going to put my body on the line to try to stop it.' "

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Khan, a former cricket star, is leading a convoy of thousands — including political supporters, local community members and journalists — into the troubled, restricted region to highlight the impact of drone strikes in Pakistan.


The rally will be the first of its kind to the tribal areas. 

U.S. officials call the drone strikes an essential element of their attacks on al-Qaida militants and their affiliates in countries such as Pakistan, even as those strikes ignite local anger and fray diplomatic relations.

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In August, the Pakstani Taliban threatened to kill Khan if he held the march. "If he comes, our suicide bombers will target him," Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan told The Associated Press. 

Khan, who is the founder of the Pakistan Movement for Justice party, has gained momentum over the last year after more than a decade in politics. He is perhaps the most famous person in Pakistan because he led the country's cricket team to victory in the 1992 World Cup. 

More Pakistan coverage from NBC News

Despite the danger, the Code Pink members said it was important to show solidarity with the Pakistani people.

"A lot of anti-Americanism is actually created due to the drone war," activist Chelsea Faria told NBC News. "It's making us a lot less safe."

San Francisco-based Dianne Budd said people were being forced to spend "24/7 under the threat at any moment of death by drones." She added: "It's almost trivial what we're doing, compared to how they're living."

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Arshad Arbab / EPA

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