US airstrike kills 15 in North Waziristan
A swarm of five US unmanned strike aircraft killed 15 Taliban fighters in Pakistan's lawless tribal agency of North Waziristan.
The strike aircraft, likely the Predators or the newer, more deadly Reapers, conducted two strikes against Taliban fighters in the village of Mizar Madakhel near the Afghan border.
A volley of four missiles were fired at a Taliban compound in the first strike, killing eight terrorists, AFP reported. Three missiles were fired at Taliban vehicles used during the recovery of those killed in the first strike, killing four more. The Kuwaiti News Agency reported that 15 Taliban fighters were killed in both strikes, and that more than a dozen fighters were wounded, some seriously.
The compound is owned by Hafiz Gul Bahadar, the Taliban commander for North Waziristan. The Pakistani military signed a peace agreement with Bahadar even though he continues to shelter al Qaeda leaders and fighters, and sends his forces to battle the US and NATO in Afghanistan.
No senior Taliban or al Qaeda fighters have been reported killed in the attack. US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal would not disclose the target of the attack.
Today's airstrike is the second recorded attack in three days, and also is the second this month. The last attack, on March 8, killed five terrorists operating in a compound at a bazaar in Miramshah, the main town in North Waziristan.
So far this year, the US has carried out 19 strikes in Pakistan; all of them have taken place in North Waziristan. In 2009, the US carried out 53 strikes in Pakistan; and in 2008, the US carried out 36 strikes in the country. [For up-to-date charts on the US air campaign in Pakistan, see: Charting the data for US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 - 2010.]
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.
Unmanned US Predator and Reaper strike aircraft have been pounding Taliban and al Qaeda hideouts in North Waziristan over the past several months in an effort to kill senior terror leaders and disrupt the networks that threaten Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the West. Since Dec. 8, 2009, the air campaign in Pakistan has killed four 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 several others - a top Pakistani Taliban leader, a member of al Qaeda's top council, and a wanted Philippine terrorist - is still unknown.
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 of leaders and operatives thought to have been killed in US strikes].
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; Haji Omar Khan, a senior Taliban leader in North Waziristan; Mohammed Haqqani, a military commander in the Haqqani Network; Sheikh Mansoor, an al Qaeda Shadow Army commander; and Qari Mohammad Zafar, a leader of the al Qaeda and Taliban-linked Fedayeen-i-Islam. 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.
The status of Hakeemullah Mehsud, the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, is still unknown; the Taliban released a videotape of him on March 1 but it did not confirm he was alive. On March 1, a rumor surfaced that Abdul Haq al Turkistani, the leader of the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party and a member of al Qaeda's Shura Majlis, was killed in a strike on Feb. 15. 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.
US strikes in Pakistan in 2010:
• US airstrike kills 12 in North Waziristan
March 10, 2010
• US airstrike in North Waziristan kills 5 Taliban fighters
March 8, 2010
• US hits Haqqani Network in North Waziristan, kills 8
Feb. 24, 2010
• US airstrikes target Haqqani Network in North Waziristan
Feb. 18, 2010
• Latest US airstrike kills 3 in North Waziristan
Feb. 17, 2010
• US strike kills 4 in North Waziristan
Feb. 15, 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