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— A U.N. expert Thursday launched a special investigation into drone warfare and targeted killings, which the United States relies on as a front-line weapon in its global war against al-Qaida.

One of the three countries requesting the investigation was Pakistan, which officially opposes the use of U.S. drones on its territory as an infringement on its sovereignty but is believed to have tacitly approved some strikes in the past. Many Pakistanis say innocent civilians have also been killed in drone strikes, which the U.S. has rejected.

The other two countries requesting the investigation were not named but were identified as two permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.

The civilian killings and injuries that result from drone strikes on suspected terrorist cells will be part of the focus of the investigation by British lawyer Ben Emmerson, the U.N. rapporteur on counterterrorism and human rights.

The U.N. said Emmerson will present his findings to the U.N. General Assembly later this year.

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