US airstrike kills 4 Taliban in North Waziristan
The US has killed four Taliban fighters in just the second airstrike in Pakistan's tribal areas this month.
Unmanned aircraft, likely remotely piloted Predator or Reaper drones, hit a Taliban compound in the village of Shanakhora, which lies six miles west of Miramshah in North Waziristan, with two Hellfire missiles.
"It was a US drone attack which targeted a militant compound killing four militants and wounding five others," a senior Pakistani security official in the region told AFP.
"The compound was being used by Taliban militants, however it is not clear whether there were any foreign militants or high-value targets," another Pakistani official told the news service.
The target of the strike was Salah al Somali, according to AFP. It is unclear if he was killed in the attack.
The region is a stronghold of the Haqqani Network. The Haqqani family is led by Jalaluddin and his son Siraj, who serves as the military commander. The network is based in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, and has the backing of both Pakistan's military and its intelligence service.
Over the past three months, the US strikes in Pakistan have tapered off. Today's attack is only the second this month, and the tenth since the beginning of September. Nine of the ten have taken place in North Waziristan; four have targeted Abu Kasha's territories, and six have targeted the Haqqani Network.
The last strike, on Nov. 4, killed four Taliban fighters in the Mir Ali region in North Waziristan.
Today's strike is only the third since the Pakistani military launched the offensive against Hakeemullah Mehsud's faction of the Taliban in South Waziristan on Oct. 17. Just prior to the offensive, the Pakistani Army cut a deal with Taliban leaders Hafiz Gul Bahadar in North Waziristan and Mullah Nazir in South Waziristan. The military agreed to halt attacks against those Taliban factions and allow them to use the roads, in exchange for a Taliban promise to maintain neutrality while the fighting is ongoing and to permit the passage of military convoys.
In an effort to preserve its peace agreement with Nazir and Bahadar, the Pakistani government has denied that US strikes have occurred in the tribal areas. Instead, Pakistani officials have claimed that explosions at bomb factories were the cause of the deaths.
So far this year, the US has carried out 46 airstrikes inside Pakistan. In all of 2008, 36 strikes were carried out. Since the US ramped up cross-border attacks in 2008, 14 al Qaeda and Taliban leaders have been killed [see LWJ report, "US airstrikes alone cannot defeat al Qaeda"].