US Predators strike al Qaeda camp in North Waziristan


After a one-week lull, the US has struck an al Qaeda training camp inside Pakistan's lawless tribal belt.

US unmanned Predator aircraft fired four missiles into a camp in the village of Kumsham in North Waziristan, AFP reported. Up to 14 people have been reported to have been killed.

"The strike successfully destroyed the camp," one source told AFP. "The militants were using the facility for training," another source said.

Seven al Qaeda operatives and one local Taliban commander was killed in the attack, sources told the news agency. But there is no indication that senior al Qaeda or Taliban leaders were killed in the strike.

The attack occurred in the Wazir tribal areas right along the border with South Waziristan. This is likely an area run by Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadar. He shelters al Qaeda fighters, operates training camps in his tribal areas, and sends his fighters into Afghanistan to fight Coalition forces.

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.

There have been 28 recorded cross-border attacks and attempts in Pakistan in 2008, according to numbers compiled by The Long War Journal. Twenty-one 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.

"They are keeping their heads down, they are distrustful of those outside their inner circle," the official said. The Taliban executed local tribesmen for spying for the US after one of the recent strikes.

"We can impact [al Qaeda and the Taliban's] current operations and make life difficult for them, but these strikes won't serve to defeat them."

Strikes hit al Qaeda's senior leadership

Today's attack is the first since General David Petraeus assumed leadership of the US Central Command. General Petraeus visited Pakistan earlier this week and was urged by Pakistan's prime minister, president, and military leadership to halt the strikes.

"Continuing drone attacks on our territory, which result in loss of precious lives and property, are counter-productive and difficult to explain by a democratically elected government," President Asif Ali Zardari said. "It is creating a credibility gap."

But after his visit to Pakistan, Petraeus endorsed the strikes, calling them "hugely important." He noted that three of the top 20 al Qaeda leaders based in Pakistan have been killed since attacks increased in intensity since late summer, but declined to name them.

Three senior al Qaeda leaders have been identified as killed in US attacks in Pakistan's tribal areas since late July.

Abu Khabab al Masri and several senior members of his staff were killed in a strike in South Waziristan on July 28. Khabab served as the chief of al Qaeda's weapons of mass destruction program, known as Project al Zabadi. He is best known for running a training camp at Derunta in Afghanistan, where he conducted experiments on animals to determine the effectiveness of chemical weapons. Khabab was also a master bomb-marker, and passed his skills onto his associates.

Khalid Habib has been killed in an Oct. 16 airstrike in North Waziristan. Habib served as the commander of al Qaeda's paramilitary forces in Pakistan's tribal areas. This responsibility placed him in charge of al Qaeda's notorious 055 Brigade and the other Arab and foreign brigades that have formed in Pakistan's tribal areas. Habib also assisted in al Qaeda's external operations aimed at the US and Europe.

Abu Jihad al Masri has been reported to have been killed in the Oct. 31 strike in North Waziristan. He serves as the leader of the faction of the Egyptian Islamic Group (Al Gamaa Al Islamiya) that merged with al Qaeda. This places him on al Qaeda's Shura Majlis, the senior council of al Qaeda leaders. Abu Jihad is considered the chief of al Qaeda's intelligence branch and directs al Qaeda's intelligence shura. He directs external operations, largely in Egypt. He is also a prolific writer and a major ideologue for the terror group.

Two other senior al Qaeda leaders have been confirmed killed in strikes earlier 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.

Other al Qaeda and Taliban leaders have been rumored to have been killed or wounded in recent strikes. Taliban leader Mullah Nazir was wounded in last week's strike in South Waziristan. Tahir Yuldashev, the leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, was also targeted in the strike that wounded Nazir. It is not known if Yuldashev was among those killed. Abu Kasha al Iraqi, an al Qaeda facilitator and financier in North Waziristan, was also reported killed in another attack. His death has not been confirmed.


US attacks inside Pakistan and incidents along the border in 2008:

US Predators strike al Qaeda camp in North Waziristan,
Nov. 7, 2008
US Predators strike again in Waziristan,
Oct. 31, 2008
US strikes kill al Qaeda operatives in North & South Waziristan,
Oct. 31, 2008
US targets Taliban "facility" in South Waziristan,
Oct. 26, 2008
US hits Haqqani Network in North Waziristan,
Oct. 22, 2008
US strike in Baitullah Mehsud's territory kills 6,
Oct. 16, 2008
US targets safe house in North Waziristan,
Oct. 11, 2008
US strike kills 9 al Qaeda and Taliban in North Waziristan,
Oct. 9, 2008
US conducts two strikes in North Waziristan,
Oct. 3, 2008
Taliban: Baitullah Mehsud alive; US strike in North Waziristan,
Oct. 1, 2008
Pakistan military fires on ISAF forces,
Sept. 25, 2008
Pakistani military fires on US helicopters at border,
Sept. 22, 2008
US strikes Taliban camp in South Waziristan,
Sept. 17, 2008
Report: US helicopters fired on while crossing Pakistani border,
Sept. 15, 2008
US hits compound in North Waziristan,
Sept. 12, 2008
US targets Haqqani Network in North Waziristan,
Sept. 8, 2008
US airstrike killed five al Qaeda operatives in North Waziristan,
Sept. 5, 2008
Report: US airstrike kills four in North Waziristan,
Sept. 4, 2008
Pakistanis claim US helicopter-borne forces assaulted village in South Waziristan,
Sept. 3, 2008
US hits al Qaeda safe house in North Waziristan,
Aug. 31, 2008
Five killed in al Qaeda safe house strike in South Waziristan,
Aug. 31, 2008
Al Qaeda safe house targeted in South Waziristan strike,
Aug. 20, 2008
Cross-border strike targets one of the Taliban's 157 training camps in Pakistan's northwest,
Aug. 13, 2008
Six killed in strike in South Waziristan,
July 28, 2008
Report: Strike targets Baitullah Mehsud's hideout in Pakistan,
June 14, 2008
Senior Algerian al Qaeda operative killed in May 14 strike inside Pakistan,
May 24, 2008
Missile strike kills 20 in South Waziristan,
March 16, 2008
Unprecedented Coalition strike nails the Haqqani Network in North Waziristan,
March 13, 2008
Missile strike on al Qaeda meeting in South Waziristan kills 13,
Feb. 28, 2008
Senior al Qaeda leader Abu Laith al Libi killed in North Waziristan,
Jan. 31, 2008



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READER COMMENTS: "US Predators strike al Qaeda camp in North Waziristan"

Posted by C. Jordan at November 7, 2008 10:32 AM ET:

BOOM!

Great job U.S. Forces! Keep it up!

Posted by JusCruzn at November 7, 2008 12:36 PM ET:

Al Qaeda operates 157 known camps in the area. Time for JDAM's to be put on those. Since there are 157 someone must have counted them, and we sure must know where they are. If nothing else let the predators/reapers keep blasting away, man do I love those things. Nothing like killing hirabi's by remote control. GOOD WORK TROOPS KEEP KILLING HIRABI'S!!!

Posted by Marlin at November 7, 2008 2:03 PM ET:

Later news indicates 1) the strike was in Bannu which is directly adjacent to the North/South Waziristan border and 2) a senior (though unnamed) al-Qaeda commander was killed.

The missile struck the home of a tribesman in Jani Khel area near FR Bannu, 45 km from Miranshah, the headquarters of North Waziristan Agency, early this morning.

[...]

Five missiles were fired and one hit the home of a tribesman, Ghani Gul, killing 5 foreigners including a senior al-Qaeda commander. However, their names could not be known.

Geo TV: 13 killed in US drone attack in Bannu

Posted by Neo at November 7, 2008 2:20 PM ET:

It does appear that the Predator strikes will continue at much the same rate. In the mean time, I doubt if there is any definitive political movement either the Pakistani government to stop the attacks, or the US to escalate. Any change in policy will probably wait for the incoming administration, and they may take some time to decide which direction they will move with this. It looks like we are set for 3 or 4 months of whack the militant.

Posted by Neo at November 7, 2008 2:27 PM ET:

That's a lot of missiles for a Predator. Of course, it's none of my business what UAV we are currently using.

Posted by David M at November 7, 2008 2:35 PM ET:

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 11/07/2008 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

Posted by AAndrew at November 7, 2008 5:00 PM ET:

AQ must be spending a lot of their time on succession planning these days. You could go from entry level to senior AQ in a matter of a few Hellfires in Pak.

Posted by TEM at November 7, 2008 6:59 PM ET:

Keep the great news rolling in Bill! I am glad to see there are people who "get it", these people are killers,not criminals, their justice needs to be visiited upon them in the field of battle,not some courtroom.

Keep making martyrs out of the nasty animals.

BTW, if UBL and the nut job Egyptian doctor,love death as much as they claim,why are they hiding under a rock, instead of letting their brave words and actions match. They should be leading their army of "lions" and the US military will gladly grant them their wish.

Posted by Rhyno327/lrs at November 8, 2008 11:22 AM ET:

I cannot think of ANY reason to stop these strikes. The P-stani's sat back and let the hadji's build up the number of training camps from 30 last May, to 157 in October. They have strike aircraft, why did they not use them? Ah, playing both sides, don't let thier whining fool ya. There have been reports of P-stani soldiers joining thier hadji bro's in firefights against US soldiers. I would like to see every camp bombed to dust with every available strike aircraft. We may see it one day soon.

Posted by JusCruzn at November 8, 2008 5:10 PM ET:

157 known camps=157 known coordinates for JDAM's. Since the Pak's can't seem to do any more than what they are now doing I think it's time for bombs away. GOOD WORK TROOPS KEEP KILLING HIRABI'S!!!

Posted by juscruzn at November 9, 2008 12:43 PM ET:

TEM, If you read about Bin Laden and I'm sure this also applies to Al Zawahiri as well. Osama has a pattern of publicly talking about fighting to the death. That seems to be all fine and well as it applies to the average illiterate footsoldier but not Osama himself. In 1987 in a place called Jaji in Afghanistan Bin Laden and 47 other arabs were fighting it out with about 200 Soviet Special Forces. After about 48 hours and 12 dead arabs the Soviets were getting ready to surround them and finish them off. When the arabs realized what was going on they took off running for the hills. Does this remind you of what also happened in Tora Bora in 2001? It's one thing to talk the talk, another entirely to walk the walk.

Posted by Devin at November 10, 2008 12:53 PM ET:

Keep up the strikes, like others i agree that there is no reason to stop at the moment!