Map of the tribal areas and the Northwest Frontier Province. The government signed peace agreements in the red agencies/ districts (the military said Shangla was under Taliban control in October); purple districts are under de facto Taliban control; yellow regions are under Taliban influence.
An unmanned US Predator aircraft attacked a Taliban and al Qaeda safe house in the Bannu Frontier Region east of North Waziristan early today, according to reports from the region.
At least five people were killed in the early morning airstrike, including two “foreigners,” according to Dawn. Five people are reported to have been wounded. Arabs and other central Asian and North African al Qaeda members are often called foreigners by local Pakistanis.
Abdullah Azzam al Saudi, a senior al Qaeda leader operating in Pakistan’s tribal areas and the Northwest Frontier Province, is reported to have been killed in the attack. Azzam, a Saudi national, serves a liaison between al Qaeda and the Taliban operating in Pakistan’s northwest, intelligence officials told The Long War Journal. Azzam facilitates al Qaeda’s external operations network that is tasked with striking against the West. He also served as a recruiter and trainer for al Qaeda.
Dawn said the attack occurred in the Hindi Khel region of Bannu, while Reuters claimed the strike was in Jani Khel. The Hellfire missiles launched from the Predator is said to have hit a compound owned by a “tribesman” named Sakhi Mohammad. The Taliban often host al Qaeda meeting and shelter members in their fortress-like compounds in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
Bannu, a Frontier Region, is outside of Pakistan’s tribal areas. Bannu borders the Taliban-controlled North and South Waziristan tribal areas to the east. According to US intelligence officials and reports from the region, Bannu is effectively under Taliban control.
Today’s airstrike is the first recorded US attack outside of Pakistan’s tribal areas, and appears to be the deepest strike inside Pakistani territory.
Background on the recent strikes inside Pakistan
Today’s attack is only the third since General David Petraeus took command of US Central Command, and the third in November. The attacks are tapering off after a high operational tempo in September and October, when strikes into Pakistan averaged between two to three a week.
There have been 30 recorded cross-border attacks and attempts in Pakistan this year, according to numbers compiled by The Long War Journal. Twenty-three of these attacks have occurred since Aug. 31. There were only 10 strikes during 2006 and 2007 combined.
The strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas have disrupted al Qaeda and the Taliban’s operations, but will not dislodge the groups from power in the region, a senior intelligence official told The Long War Journal.
The US campaign in Pakistan is aimed at disrupting al Qaeda’s ability to attack the West, US intelligence officials told The Long War Journal on Sept. 19.
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, intelligence officials told The Long War Journal in August.
Pakistan has been identified as one of several areas where al Qaeda has regrouped, CIA Director General Michael Hayden during a briefing to the Atlantic Council on Nov. 13.
High value targets
The US strikes inside Pakistan’s tribal areas have killed five senior al Qaeda leaders this year.
Abu Laith al Libi, a senior military commander in Afghanistan, was killed in a strike in North Waziristan in January. Abu Sulayman Jazairi, al Qaeda’s external operations chief, was killed in a strike in Bajaur in March. Abu Khabab al Masri, al Qaeda’s WMD chief, and several senior members of his staff were killed in a strike in South Waziristan in July. Khalid Habib, the leader of al Qaeda’s paramilitary forces in the tribal areas, was killed in North Waziristan in October. Abu Jihad al Masri, the leader of the Egyptian Islamic Group and member of al Qaeda’s top council, was also killed in North Waziristan this October.
Other al Qaeda and Taliban leaders are rumored to have been killed or wounded in recent strikes. Taliban leader Mullah Nazir was wounded in strike in South Waziristan on Nov. 7. Tahir Yuldashev, the leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, was also targeted in the strike that wounded Nazir. It is still not known if Yuldashev was among those killed.
US attacks inside Pakistan and incidents along the border in 2008:
Nov. 19, 2008
Nov. 14, 2008
Nov. 7, 2008
Oct. 31, 2008
Oct. 31, 2008
Oct. 26, 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