The US launched another airstrike in Pakistan’s Taliban controlled-tribal agency of North Waziristan, the fourth in the region in six days.
Unmanned US Predators and Reapers struck in the village of Inzar. Initial reports indicated that four terrorists were killed.
“The targeted compound belongs to a relative of a militant commander,” a Pakistani intelligence official told AFP. The commander was not identified, and no senior al Qaeda or Taliban leaders have been reported killed.
The Taliban only began to recover bodies from the attack site after the circling Predators dispersed, indicating that a senior leader was not present. US strike aircraft have been circling over the attack site. In two of the last four strikes, US Predators targeted the Taliban during recovery operations.
The Taliban have responded to the US attacks by liquidating anyone suspected of spying for the US and Pakistan. Four suspected “US spies” were slaughtered in Mir Ali in North Waziristan today. A note found on one of the bodies warned others against opposing the Taliban.
“Spies are spies, and they will come to the same fate as these men,” the note stated. “Do not spy for America.”
Today’s airstrike is the fourth since March 16. The last attack took place on March 17, when the US launched a pair of attacks in North Waziristan. Eight al Qaeda and Taliban fighters were reported killed in the attack.
The two latest strikes put the March total at six. So far this year, the US has carried out 23 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. [For more information, see LWJ report, “Senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders killed in US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2010.”]
Since Dec. 8, 2009, the air campaign in Pakistan has killed four senior al Qaeda leaders, a senior Taliban commander, three senior al Qaeda operatives, and a wanted Palestinian terrorist who was allied with al Qaeda. The status of several others – a two top Pakistani Taliban leaders, 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.
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; Qari Mohammad Zafar, a leader of the al Qaeda and Taliban-linked Fedayeen-i-Islam; and Sadam Hussein Al Hussami, a senior operative in al Qaeda’s external operations branch. 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 an airstrike on Jan. 9.
Several other senior Taliban and al Qaeda leaders are believed to have been killed in strikes over the past several months, but their deaths have not been confirmed.
The status of Hakeemullah is still unknown; the Taliban released a videotape of him on March 1 but it did not confirm he was alive. Numerous Taliban leaders have stated that he is still alive and in command. On March 15, Khalid Khawaja, a lawyer for terrorist groups in Pakistan and a former ISI officer, claimed that his associates met with Hakeemullah on March 9.
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.
Hafiz Gul Bahadar, the top Taliban commander in North Waziristan, is rumored to have been killed in a swarm attack on March 10 in the Datta Khel region. The Taliban have not confirmed his death, but US intelligence officials did say Bahadar was the target of the strike.
US strikes in Pakistan in 2010:
March 21, 2010
March 17, 2010
March 16, 2010
March 10, 2010
March 8, 2010
Feb. 24, 2010
Feb. 18, 2010
Feb. 17, 2010
Feb. 15, 2010
Feb. 14, 2010
Feb. 2, 2010
Jan. 29, 2010
Jan. 19, 2010
Jan. 17, 2010
Jan. 15, 2010
Jan. 14, 2010
Jan. 9, 2010
Jan. 8, 2010
Jan. 6, 2010
Jan. 3, 2010
Jan. 1, 2010