Most Britons back assassination of terrorists, pirates: poll

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A majority of Britons support the assassination of terrorists, both in the country and overseas, according to a YouGov poll released Tuesday.

The survey, carried out for the defense policy think-tank RUSI, finds 54 percent of the British public support the “targeted killing” of terrorists, while 31 percent object.

Terrorists were not the only mark; the killing of individual kidnappers and pirates was backed by a decisive 57 percent.

The results will alarm human rights campaigners in the country who regard state-sanctioned assassinations as a form of extrajudicial execution, according to the Guardian on Tuesday.

Britons were not, however, uniformly trigger-happy across the board.

The targeted assassination of Syria’s embattled President Bashar al-Assad was objected to by 49 percent of respondents while 56 percent vetoed the idea of killing Iranian nuclear scientists.

Women and young voters are notably less enthusiastic about the targeted killings of individuals, with regards to pirates and kidnappers for example only 47 percent of women favor assassination against 67 percent of men.

Young people between the ages of 18-24 were less likely to support such killings, 37 percent supported the notion, as opposed to people over the age of 60; 64 percent of whom agreed to the assassination of individual kidnappers and pirates.

The survey highlights the UK’s passing of information to the U.S. to facilitate American drone attacks in countries such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

According to the results, Britons are split as to whether such attacks make western countries safer. 31 percent calculate that by turning local opinion against the west, the drone attacks will undermine security. Alternatively, 32 percent believe that drones bolster security.

Strikingly, respondents seemed willing to accept civilian casualties if the terrorist threat were deemed immediate; 64 percent of one sub-sample would back a drone strike even if two or three innocent civilians were likely to be killed in the process of the attack. 60 percent of another sub-sample agreed to support a drone strike even if 1-15 civilians were put in harm’s way, provided the threat level was high enough.

Drones “can reduce casualties by removing the need to send in people on the ground,” agreed 57 percent of Britons, underlining the popularity of the controversial weapon. Although 47 percent of Britons did say that the technology “makes it too easy for western governments to conduct military strikes in foreign countries.”

The YouGov study consisted of six surveys between February 26 and March 8 2013, with a nationally representative poll of 1,966 British adults and several survey experiments studying different scenarios, involving at least 700 respondents in each case.

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