US strikes training camp in North Waziristan
The US killed five terrorists in an attack in the Taliban-controlled tribal area of North Waziristan.
Unmanned US strike aircraft, likely the Predators and Reapers, fired two missiles at a Taliban training camp near Mir Ali, one of the two main towns in North Waziristan.
"Two missiles landed on a militant compound in Zor Babar Aidak village near Mir Ali town," a Pakistani security official told Dawn. "The US drone strike killed five people and wounded three others."
No senior al Qaeda, Taliban, or allied terror group commanders 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.
Today's strike is only the second this month. In January 2010, the US carried out 11 strikes, the greatest number of strikes in the tribal areas in any month since the program of targeting al Qaeda and Taliban leaders and camps in Pakistan began in June 2004.
The last recorded strike, on Feb. 2, was the largest since the program began in June 2004. Between five to eight unmanned strike aircraft fired an estimated 16 to 19 missiles at a group of targets in the Datta Khel region in North Waziristan. Siraj Haqqani, the dangerous, al Qaeda-linked military commander of the Haqqani Network, was the target, but he is reported to have escaped.
The US strikes in Pakistan have tapered off after an flurry of attacks in the first 20 days after an al Qaeda suicide bomber, aided by the Haqqani Network and Pakistani Taliban leader Hakeemullah Mehsud, killed seven CIA officials, including the station chief, and a Jordanian intelligence officer. The Dec. 30, 2009, attack was carried out by a Jordanian al Qaeda operative and double agent at Combat Outpost Chapman in Afghanistan's Khost province. The al Qaeda suicide bomber lured CIA officials by claiming to have information that would lead to Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qaeda's second in command.
In the 20 days between Dec. 31, 2009, and Jan 19, 2010, the US has launched 11 airstrikes against Taliban and al Qaeda bases in Pakistan. In the 26 days between Jan. 20, 2010, and Feb. 14, 2010, there have been only three airstrikes in Pakistan. [For up-to-date charts on the US air campaign in Pakistan, see: Charting the data for US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 - 2010.]
Since the Dec. 30 suicide attack, the US has been hunting Hakeemullah, who appeared with the Jordanian suicide bomber on a martyrdom tape that was released shortly after the attack. Hakeemullah was rumored to have died on three separate occasions after being targeted in a Jan. 14 strike. The Taliban have denied he is dead and have claimed that a tape confirming he is alive will be released soon.
Background on the recent strikes in Pakistan
US intelligence believes that al Qaeda has reconstituted its external operations network in Pakistan's lawless, Taliban-controlled tribal areas. This network is tasked with hitting targets in the West, India, and elsewhere. The US has struck at these external cells using unmanned Predator aircraft and other means in an effort to disrupt al Qaeda's external network and decapitate the leadership. The US also has targeted al Qaeda-linked Taliban fighters operating in Afghanistan, particularly the notorious Haqqani Network.
As of the summer of 2008, al Qaeda and the Taliban operated 157 known training camps in the tribal areas and the Northwest Frontier Province. Al Qaeda has been training terrorists holding Western passports to conduct attacks, US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal. Some of the camps are devoted to training the Taliban's military arm; some train suicide bombers for attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan; some focus on training the various Kashmiri terror groups; some train al Qaeda operatives for attacks in the West; some train the Lashkar al Zil, al Qaeda's Shadow Army; and one serves as a training ground for the Black Guard, the elite bodyguard unit for Osama bin Laden, Ayman al Zawahiri, and other senior al Qaeda leaders.
The air campaign has had success over the past two months. Since Dec. 8, 2009, the air campaign in Pakistan has killed two senior al Qaeda leaders, a senior Taliban commander, two senior al Qaeda operatives, and a wanted Palestinian terrorist who was allied with al Qaeda. The status of Hakeemullah Mehsud is still unknown.
Already this year, the US has killed Mansur al Shami, an al Qaeda ideologue and aide to al Qaeda's leader in Afghanistan, Mustafa Abu Yazid; and Haji Omar Khan, a senior Taliban leader in North Waziristan. Jamal Saeed Abdul Rahim, the Abu Nidal Organization operative who participated in killing 22 hostages during the 1986 hijacking of Pan Am flight 73, is thought to have been killed in the Jan. 9 airstrike. And Abdul Basit Usman, an Abu Sayyaf operative with a $1 million US bounty for information leading to his capture, is rumored to have been killed in a strike on Jan. 14, although a Philippine military spokesman said Usman is likely still alive and in the Philippines.
In December 2009, the US killed Abdullah Said al Libi, the top commander of the Shadow Army; Zuhaib al Zahib, a senior commander in the Shadow Army; and Saleh al Somali, the leader of al Qaeda's external network [see LWJ report, "Senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders killed in US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 - 2010" for the full list].
US strikes in Pakistan in 2010:
• US strikes training camp in North Waziristan
Feb. 14, 2010
• Predators pound terrorist camp in North Waziristan
Feb. 2, 2010
• US airstrike targets Haqqani Network in North Waziristan
Jan. 29, 2010
• US airstrike in North Waziristan kills 6
Jan. 19, 2010
• Latest US airstrike in Pakistan kills 20
Jan. 17, 2010
• US strikes kill 11 in North Waziristan
Jan. 15, 2010
• US airstrike hits Taliban camp in North Waziristan
Jan. 14, 2010
• US airstrike kills 4 Taliban fighters in North Waziristan
Jan. 9, 2010
• US airstrike kills 5 in North Waziristan
Jan. 8, 2010
• US kills 17 in latest North Waziristan strike
Jan. 6, 2010
• US airstrike kills 2 Taliban fighters in Mir Ali in Pakistan
Jan. 3, 2010
• US kills 3 Taliban in second strike in North Waziristan
Jan. 1, 2010