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Sharp rise in British drone use in Afghanistan

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British soldiers load an unmanned aerial vehicle at Westdown Camp near Salisbury on July 22, 2009. (AFP/File)

The British military fired nearly seven times as many missiles from unmanned drones in Afghanistan last year as it did five years earlier, according to official data released on Friday.

In 2012 British drones flew 892 missions over Afghanistan -- firing missiles on 92 occasions -- more than 10 percent of all sorties, junior defence minister Andrew Robathan said in a written statement to parliament.

This compares to 2008 when the hi-tech unmanned Reaper aircraft flew 296 missions, firing weapons just five percent of the time, on 14 occasions.

Used to target suspected insurgents in Afghanistan, Britain's Reaper drones are capable of carrying laser-guided Hellfire missiles.

Heavy use of drones by the United States has been one of the most controversial aspects of its fight against Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and beyond.

Drone fire has killed top leaders from both Islamist networks, but it has also been blamed for scores of civilian deaths.