The front gate of the Haqqani-run Manba Ulom madrassa in North Waziristan. Photo by The Asia Times.
After a one week lull in attacks inside Pakistan’s tribal areas, US unmanned Predator aircraft struck a compound run by the powerful, al Qaeda-linked Haqqani family in North Waziristan.
The attack occurred early Thursday morning Pakistani time in a village on the outskirts of Miramshah where Jalaluddin Haqqani “established a madrassa or religious school and where his extended family used to be living,” Reuters reported. The Haqqani’s madrassa, known as the Manba Ulom, is in the town of Danda Darpa Khel.
“Scores” of casualties have been reported by Geo TV, but no hard numbers have been given. “A large number of militants are rushing toward the area in vehicles,” a witness in Miramshah told Reuters. There is no word if any senior al Qaeda or Taliban leaders have been killed.
Targeting the Haqqani Network
The US has stepped up attacks inside Pakistan’s tribal areas this year in an attempt to disrupt al Qaeda’s network. US intelligence believes the next attack launched against the West will originate from Pakistan’s tribal areas, where al Qaeda operates 157 known training camps.
There have been 24 recorded cross-border attacks and attempts in Pakistan in 2008, compared to 10 strikes during 2006 and 2007 combined. Seventeen of these attacks have occurred since Aug. 31.
Three senior al Qaeda leaders have been killed in Pakistan’s tribal areas in 2008. Abu Laith al Libi, a senior al Qaeda leader, was killed in a strike in North Waziristan on Jan. 28.
The US has been heavily targeting the Haqqani Network in Pakistan and across the border in Afghanistan over the past several months. Eleven of the attacks this year have hit inside North Waziristan.
“We want the Haqqanis to know we will hit them anywhere,” a senior US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal after the Sept. 8 strike on the Haqqani madrassa. The Haqqanis work closely with al Qaeda as well as conduct strikes against Afghan and Coalition forces in Afghanistan.
The Manba Ulom madrassa was established by Jalaluddin Haqqani, the family patriarch who has close ties with Osama bin Laden. The madrassa was used in the 1980s to train mujahideen to fight the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. The Haqqani family used the Manba Ulom madrassa as a training center and meeting place for senior al Qaeda leaders after the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
The Pakistani government closed the madrassa down in 2002, but it was reopened in 2004. Since then, Taliban fighters and members of al Qaeda’s network are known to shelter in the madrassa compound.
The madrassa serves as the headquarters for the Haqqani Network, while the forward operating command center in Afghanistan is located in the village of Zambar in the northern Sabari district in Khost province, Afghanistan. The network is active in the Afghan provinces of Khost, Paktia, Paktika, Ghazni, Logar, Wardak, and Kabul, and provides support to Taliban networks in Kunar, Nangarhar, Helmand, and Kandahar provinces
The Haqqanis have extensive links with al Qaeda and Pakistan’s military intelligence agency, the Inter-Service Intelligence, or ISI. This relationship has allowed the Haqqani network to survive and thrive in North Waziristan. The Haqqanis control large swaths of North Waziristan, and run a parallel administration with courts, recruiting centers, tax offices, and security forces.
Siraj Haqqani, a son of Jalaluddin, has risen in prominence over the past year. He is believed to be the mastermind of the most deadly attacks inside Afghanistan as well as the senior military commander in eastern Afghanistan. The US military has described Siraj as the primary threat to security in eastern Afghanistan. A $200,000 reward has been issued for the capture of Siraj and 11 other senior and mid-level Taliban, al Qaeda, and other allied commanders.
Siraj is believed to be dangerous not only for his connections with the Afghan Taliban, but with al Qaeda’s central leadership, which extends all the way to Osama bin Laden.
US attacks inside Pakistan and incidents along the border in 2008:
Oct. 22, 2008
Oct. 16, 2008
Oct. 11, 2008
Oct. 9, 2008
Oct. 3, 2008
Oct. 1, 2008
Sept. 25, 2008
Sept. 22, 2008
Sept. 17, 2008
Sept. 15, 2008
Sept. 12, 2008
Sept. 8, 2008
Sept. 5, 2008
Sept. 4, 2008
Sept. 3, 2008
Aug. 31, 2008
Aug. 31, 2008
Aug. 20, 2008
Aug. 13, 2008
July 28, 2008
June 14, 2008
May 24, 2008
March 16, 2008
March 13, 2008
Feb. 28, 2008
Jan. 31, 2008