Pakistanis claim US helicopter-borne forces assaulted village in South Waziristan


Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the tribal areas. Map from PBS' Frontline. Click to view.

The US military, with the possible cooperation of the Afghan military, may have conducted a special operations air assault across the border into Taliban-controlled South Waziristan on Wednesday, according to unconfirmed reports from Pakistan.

The initial report from a Geo TV correspondent indicated the casualties were taken after US helicopters launched missiles at three homes in the Barmal area of Angorada late at night.

The report later changed when the correspondent claimed the helicopters landed and troops dismounted, who then began searching homes. One witness told The Associated Press that "American and Afghan soldiers starting firing" on one family outside of their home. Soldiers then entered the home and others, and killed 15 people, including women and children. The raid was reported to have occurred in the village of Musa Nikow.

The Pakistani military confirmed an attack occurred in the region, AP reported but did not provide details. Two anonymous Pakistani intelligence officials said the attack occurred and claimed 19 were killed. The US military in Afghanistan said its forces were not involved, and the US embassy in Pakistan did not comment.

A rare raid

The US military command in Afghanistan can plausibly deny its forces were involved in such a raid, as the operation have been carried out by Special Forces teams. Task Force 88, the hunter-killer teams assigned to take down al Qaeda and the Taliban's command structure, does not report to the conventional command in Afghanistan.

A raid of this nature - the insertion of US special operations team inside Pakistani territory - is rare. This would be only the second reported raid of this nature since 2006. Nearly every other attack was conducted by unmanned US Predator aircraft or missile strikes from Afghanistan.

US special operation teams raided an al Qaeda camp in Danda Saidgai in North Waziristan in March 2006. The camp was run by the Black Guard, the al Qaeda elite praetorian guard for Osama bin Laden, Ayman al Zawahiri, and other senior al Qaeda leaders.

The air assault resulted in the death of Imam Asad and several dozen members of the Black Guard. In addition to being the camp commander, Asad was a senior Chechen al Qaeda commander and associate of Shamil Basayev, the Chechen al Qaeda leader killed by Russian security forces in July 2006.

The insertion of US soldiers inside Pakistan is a risky venture. If this raid indeed occurred US intelligence must have believed that a senior-most al Qaeda or Taliban leader or leaders were present.

Increased activity

If confirmed the assault in South Waziristan would be the fourth cross-border attack since Aug. 20 and the 10th confirmed attack this year. Only 10 such strikes were recorded in 2006 and 2007 combined.

Four safe houses have been hit in South Waziristan, three have been hit in North Waziristan, and two have been targeted in Bajaur this year.

Three senior al Qaeda operatives have been killed in this year's strikes. Two Canadians of Arab origin were killed in a strike in strike in South Waziristan last weekend.

Abu Khabab al Masri, al Qaeda's bomb expert and weapons of mass destruction chief, was killed South Waziristan on July 28. Abu Sulayman Jazairi, al Qaeda's external operations chief, was killed in Bajaur on May 14. Abu Laith al Libi, a senior commander in Afghanistan and the leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, was killed in North Waziristan on Jan. 28.

While the strikes have disrupted al Qaeda's senior leadership, they have done little to disrupt the growth of al Qaeda and the Taliban in northwestern Pakistan.

The Taliban, al Qaeda, and allied terrorist groups have established 157 training camps and more than 400 support locations in the tribal areas and the Northwest Frontier Province, US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal.

The Taliban has organized some of its fighters into military formations. Al Qaeda has reformed the notorious 055 Brigade, the Arab legion of al Qaeda fighters that was destroyed during the initial US assault in Afghanistan in late 2001. Additional al Qaeda brigades have been formed, intelligence officials informed The Long War Journal.

Foreign al Qaeda fighters have flocked to the Pakistani border regions. On July 23, Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani and his cabinet were told that more than 8,000 foreign fighters were operating in the tribal areas.



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READER COMMENTS: "Pakistanis claim US helicopter-borne forces assaulted village in South Waziristan"

Posted by Tommy at September 3, 2008 5:54 AM ET:

No doubt about it...some huge terrrorist target had to be involved. Bin Laden, Zawahiri, someone like that.

Posted by Chris at September 3, 2008 7:13 AM ET:

Although I tend to believe the raid took place, I believe that the Taliban do a better job of IO than we do. In another version of this article I read, an "eye witness" stated that all the women and children victims were "shot in the head".

Either he was lying or our marksmanship program in the US and Afghanistan is amazing.

We need to consider 2nd and 3rd order effects and that's not something SOF really think about.

Posted by KaneKaizer at September 3, 2008 8:14 AM ET:

It better have gotten someone important or it'll be a lot tougher dealing with the inevitable backlash.

Posted by don juice at September 3, 2008 8:18 AM ET:

either we got somebody big or somebody lying here and truth will come soon

Posted by C. Jordan at September 3, 2008 10:09 AM ET:

Amazing... AQ must be getting nervous now.

Posted by Nic at September 3, 2008 10:30 AM ET:

YEA!! Long overdue. The Paks had surrendered the area to the Taliban and al Qaeda so the area should be called Talibanstan or Al Qaedastan. As for the reported deaths of women and children, truth is always the first casualty in war so lets hold off on judgement until all the facts are in.

Posted by Alex at September 3, 2008 12:18 PM ET:

I have had a feeling that activities like this have been going on for a while, but we've just never heard about them...the intel for our air strikes has to be coming from somewhere. While we'll have to see if this is a high-value target, my opinion is that the main purpose of the raid was to strike fear into AQ and the Taliban, that we're not just going to let them have a safe haven. It will force them to start thinking more defensively about their Pakistan territory and divert resources away from their Afghan campaign.

Posted by Jeff at September 3, 2008 12:29 PM ET:

if it is an important target it will be a week or two before we will really know who. they will want to ensure identity and maximize intelligence gathering.

if they got on the ground - could that mean they took prisoners? otherwise wouldn't they just take it out by from the air?

Posted by Neo at September 3, 2008 12:31 PM ET:

Let the Pakistani's squawk about it. At this level it's still background noise.

No news on whether we massacred another wedding party? I guess that one has been overused.

Posted by JusCruzn at September 3, 2008 1:26 PM ET:

From alot of the reports that have come out for some time now it sounds like there have been special ops people in these areas for quite a while. Read an article not too long ago about the French having someone deep inside AQ. The intel is coming from somewhere and I don't think it's from the Pak's. GOOD WORK TROOPS KEEP KILLING HIRABI'S!!!

Posted by David M at September 3, 2008 1:56 PM ET:

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 09/03/2008 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

Posted by KW64 at September 3, 2008 3:07 PM ET:

The article says Pakistani intelligence confirmed an attack took place but did it confirm that it was Americans? The Pakistani army has helicopters too.

Posted by Johnnie at September 3, 2008 3:11 PM ET:

Now it is really becoming like Vietnam. Looks like some SF boys are leading some Afghan version of Nung mercenaries or Hmong tribesmen in a Mike force. But I really doubt this is true. I don't think the commander there would order a manned mission where a Predator would not fear to tread. But then, maybe organizing and leading some locals in the mix would make the Talibs have second thoughts. An inter-Pushtun civil war might take heat off of Afghanistan. Or maybe this is our Tajiks getting some payback.

Posted by Steve-o at September 3, 2008 3:15 PM ET:

I'm sure other posters are correct that ground insertion means very high-value target(s). Doesn't this indicate a snatch op as opposed to a kill op?

Posted by Tyrone at September 3, 2008 4:26 PM ET:

Maybe the Afghans were along as translators and/or due to knowledge of the area, as well as being SOF. I tend to think the op might have been snatch or kill.

Posted by Brian at September 3, 2008 5:27 PM ET:

The info on the raid is firming-uo. It was US special forces. "Successful", "40 troops involved", "a small number of militants was captured and several others killed".

very interesting...

Doesn't sound like a HVT success - but we must have thought somebody very important was there. I wonder if it was a predator/Helo hellfire strike followed by our own mop-up (rather than letting the Pakistani's conduct the mop up). If so, you would think that it would have had to have been very close to the border or easy to secure (with such a small force), or both.

Posted by Brian at September 3, 2008 5:27 PM ET:

Sorry, here is the link to the story.

http://abcnews.go.com/International/Story?id=5718172&page=1

Posted by Tommy at September 3, 2008 6:20 PM ET:

Anyone who follows this type of thing knows something huge has gone down. Like Bill said in the article, this is only the second time this has happened. It is very risky and rare. Successful or not, something involving a HVT had to be involved. I believe one of two things occured:

1. A HVT (Bin Laden, Zawahiri, Hekmatyar, Haqqanni etc.) was at the site of the raid.

2. Key people that could lead us to a HVT were targeted (an aide, a courier, a bodyguard etc.)

The Bush admin realizes the only way to kill Bin Laden and Zawahiri is to capture lower level leaders alive and get info out of them. It looks like the plan devised last year for ground raids into Pak has finally been implemented. I would not be surprised if there were more in the weeks to come.

Posted by Brian at September 3, 2008 7:55 PM ET:

Now ABC seems to be backtracking. The article I linked to is no longer on their home page, though the link is still active.

Another article on the "raid" and the assasination attempt on the Pak PM, now makes it look like the unnamed US souces never admitted that US troops were involved.

http://abcnews.go.com/International/story?id=5716543&page=1


Who knows what happened.

Posted by Freedom Now at September 3, 2008 8:03 PM ET:

So shots were fired at the Pakistani Prime Minister today and his government is still not fully committed to fighting the Taliban.

Years of fostering terrorism in Kashmir has boomeranged big time. The elements of the Pakistani security forces with sympathies for such terrorists must be replaced. I hope that over the years the civilian government can make this happen, but I am not too optimistic. However, its their only hope.

Posted by don juice at September 3, 2008 8:15 PM ET:

i hope this was really worth it cause its causing huge backlash so it better be a HVT or a target that could lead to a chain of intel

Posted by Agent Moulder at September 4, 2008 5:48 AM ET:

Face the wrath of the US. This kind of action was long awaited... HVT or no HVT ...eliminating even pawns of AQ / Tban is important. I am glad to see that those areas are being targeted which provide recruits for AQ/Taliban. Such attacks needs to be further widened to cover other areas in FATA, NWPF. To minimize collateral damage and backlash, these strikes need to be precise. As far as the Paki statement about 'joint action' against terrorism .. how shameless can these Pakis be!

Posted by Rhyno327/lrsd at September 4, 2008 6:21 AM ET:

Well its about time. The P-stani's claim of "soveriegnty" is a joke thats worn out. Who really knows wat happened, but this kind of op has to be repeated. HVT? Possible, and would not doubt it. As for tribes rebelling against the T-ban, thats on ABC News Online too. Some tribes are forming thier own security, the term "lashkar" was mentioned, and thier must be something to it. The hell with the P-stani's, I can't wait till they start bombing those [gasp!] 157 hadji camps.

Posted by JusCruzn at September 4, 2008 10:35 AM ET:

I believe President Bush said something like this right after 9/11. "If you harbor terrorists or give safe haven to them then you are as guilty as they are. We will find them and hunt them down and smoke them out." There have been several confirmed sightings of Al Zawahiri in Pak and you know Osama can't be far away. It is long past time for the people of Pakistan to take a stand against AQ & T-Ban. But with or without their help the hunt will go on. GOOD WORK TROOPS KEEP KILLING HIRABI'S!!!

Posted by Tommy at September 4, 2008 11:06 AM ET:

BREAKING NEWS

There was just ***ANOTHER*** missile strike in Pakistan!! That's 4 strikes by the US in Pakistan in 4 days!!!