US strikes Taliban camp in North Waziristan, kills 8
Unmanned US strike aircraft killed eight Taliban and al Qaeda operatives in the second attack in North Waziristan in two days.
Today the US aircraft hit a Taliban training camp in the village of Palooseen near Mir Ali.
"At least eight people were killed in the drone attack," a Pakistani intelligence official told AFP. "A compound used by militants was targeted."
Three "foreigners," a term used to describe al Qaeda operatives, were among those killed. No senior leaders have been reported killed.
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 and the Haqqani Network. The Haqqani Network and Hafiz Gul Bahadar also have influence in the Mir Ali region.
Abu Kasha 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.
Over the past three months, the US strikes in Pakistan have tapered off. Today's attack is only the third this month, and the eleventh since the beginning of September. Ten of the 11 airstrikes have taken place in North Waziristan; five have targeted Abu Kasha's territories, and six have targeted the Haqqani Network.
Yesterday, US aircraft hit a Taliban compound just outside of Miramshah, a stronghold of the Haqqani Network. Four Taliban fighters were reported killed.
Today's strike is only the fourth 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 47 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"].