A US airstrike in the Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan is thought to have killed eight foreign al Qaeda and Taliban fighters.
Unmanned aircraft appeared to have targeted a vehicle in the village of Turikhel near the town of Mir Ali, Geo News reported.
“The blast was so huge that it could be heard as far as Miranshah,” Reuters reported, noting that Mir Ali is 15 miles away.
No senior Taliban or al Qaeda leaders have been reported killed in the strike at this time.
An airstrike on Sept. 7 in the Mir Ali region was thought to have killed Mustafa al Jaziri, a senior military commander for al Qaeda and a member of the military shura; and Ilyas Kashmiri, the operational commander of the Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI), an al Qaeda-linked terror group that operates in Pakistan, Kashmir, India, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh [see LWJ report, Senior al Qaeda leaders reported killed in North Waziristan strike for more information on Mustafa and Kashmiri].
US intelligence believes Mustafa was indeed killed in the attack while Kashmiri was not, according to officials contacted by The Long War Journal. Mustafa’s death has not been confirmed.
The town of Mir Ali is a known stronghold of al Qaeda leader Abu Kasha al Iraqi, an Iraqi national who is also known as Abu Akash. He has close links to the Taliban, a senior US intelligence official told The Long War Journal in January 2007. He serves as the key link between al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis, or executive council, and the Taliban.
His responsibilities have expanded to assisting in facilitating al Qaeda’s external operations against the West, a senior US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal in October 2008.
Today’s strike near Mir Ali is the third this week and the third in North Waziristan in a row. Four of the last five US strikes have taken place in North Waziristan. From June 14 to Aug. 20, 11 of the 12 strikes took place in South Waziristan. One of the attacks there killed Baitullah Mehsud, the former leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan.
The shift to North Waziristan indicates the US is now targeting the dangerous Haqqani Network and also al Qaeda’s network, which operates in the agency. US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal would not comment on the shift in attacks from South to North Waziristan.
The US has carried out 38 airstrikes inside Pakistan this year. In all of 2008, 36 strikes were carried out.