US strike kills 4 in North Waziristan


The US has launched yet another airstrike in Pakistan's Taliban controlled-tribal agency of North Waziristan, the sixth in the region in 11 days.

The deadly unmanned Predators and Reapers strike aircraft attacked a compound in the village of Hurmaz, just outside the town of Mir Ali. Four terrorists have been reported killed in the strike, but no senior Taliban or al Qaeda leaders have been reported killed.

"The militants have cordoned off the area and no one is allowed to go there," a Pakistani intelligence official told Reuters, highlighting the extent of Taliban control in the region.

The village is administered by Hafiz Gul Bahadar, the top Taliban commander in North Waziristan. Bahadar is rumored to have been killed in a US swarm attack on March 10 in the Datta Khel region.

Abu Kasha al Iraqi, an Iraqi national who is also known as Abu Akash, also operates in the open in the Mir Ali region. He has close ties to the Taliban and the Haqqani Network, and 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 airstrike in North Waziristan is the sixth in the Taliban and al Qaeda haven since March 16. The last attack took place in the Datta Khel region on March 23. Six Taliban fighters were reported killed in that attack.

The latest strike puts the March total at eight. Since the air campaign heated up in August of 2008, the US has averaged between five and seven strikes a month.

So far this year, the US has carried out 25 strikes in Pakistan; all of the strikes 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.]

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."]

Most recently, on March 8, a US strike in a bazaar in Miramshah killed a top al Qaeda operative known as Sadam Hussein Al Hussami. Hussami was a protégé of Abu Khabab al Masri, al Qaeda's top bomb maker and WMD chief, who was killed in a US airstrike in July 2008. Hussami was a senior member of al Qaeda's external operations network, and was on a council that advised the suicide bomber who carried out the attack at Combat Outpost Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan. That attack killed seven CIA officials and a Jordanian intelligence officer. The slain intelligence operatives had been involved in gathering intelligence for the hunt for al Qaeda and Taliban leaders along the Afghan-Pakistani border.



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READER COMMENTS: "US strike kills 4 in North Waziristan"

Posted by pedestrian at March 27, 2010 5:10 PM ET:

I believe it is time to hit Quetta. After Karachi, the only no go zone left for US is Quetta. IfUS could strike Quetta, it would be a message to Taliban and Al Qaida that there will no longer be any place safe in Pakistan, as a result of US striking the last no strike zone, Quetta.

Strike Quetta!

Posted by kp at March 27, 2010 5:30 PM ET:

AP has a little more. The first report has a second missile landing in a field (perhaps targeted at squirters? Or guidance failure? Or being dumped to avoid civilians?)

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hkiMxbHNH0BqgpWA2ZG6VD6wVTmAD9EN5BL00

Two intelligence officials said the missiles struck two houses Saturday in the village of Hurmaz in North Waziristan. A military official also confirmed the information. All three spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

AFP has:

http://sify.com/news/us-missile-strike-kills-four-in-pakistan-security-officials-news-international-kd2b4cbjdeg.html

A US drone fired two missiles into compounds in Pakistan's northwestern border area near Afghanistan killing four people late Saturday, security officials said, as military activity intensified in the area.
and
"We have confirmation of four people killed and more than five injured," said another Pakistani security official, confirming the US drone attack. The identities of the dead were not immediately clear, nor whether they were locals or foreigners. The tribesmen who owned the compounds were said by local residents to belong to the Taliban and were known to support foreign fighters. Uzbek militants have strongholds in the area and Arab militants are also present, the Pakistani security officials said.
The cordon around the target sounds like we hit someone of interest.

Posted by My2cents at March 28, 2010 3:53 AM ET:

Now they need to have a Reaper check out the funeral processions for suitable targets.

Nailing terrorists is good, but keeping them from being eulogized by anyone significant makes it even better.

Posted by Jeff at March 28, 2010 5:10 AM ET:

I have recently bumped into interview with Mehmood Shah in Pakistan's "Nation". He speaks there about CIA's technique of drone attacks. Here's the link: http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/Regional/08-Feb-2010/Blackwater-major-US-operative-in-NWFP-Mehmood/1
I'd like to know what you think about this technique. Or is it just Pakistani propaganda ?

Posted by Zeissa at March 28, 2010 11:48 AM ET:

Bomb the cordon like you do sometimes. Let their blood flow on the ground. I doubt the Earth will cry.

Posted by ArneFufkin at March 28, 2010 2:33 PM ET:

Zeissa, I tend to agree with you on an emotional level. But others on this blog, such as kp, have persuaded me that it might be better to watch the movements of the cordon forces as they regroup than to kill them where they stand guard. It might be like attacking an Army or Fire Ant colony in the hopes of destroying their queen - but then observing where the scattered ants relocate which will often be around any surviving queen. Or, maybe I've watched too many NGEO/Animal Planet shows. ;^)

Posted by Bungo at March 28, 2010 4:12 PM ET:

Jeff, Thanks for the article/link. Very interesting. It answers a lot of questions I have concerning targeting. Like you intimated, it's hard to say how much is true and how much isn't, but still... for instance I find it a little hard to believe that we're using Blackwater personnel in Pakistan, but who knows. Maybe he was talking about a few years ago.

Posted by kp at March 29, 2010 8:02 PM ET:

Jeff: I believe the first paragraph in that Dawn article but not the second. Then there are what seems like a range of half-truths. Like "the chips that can be seen by the NSA" not the NRO? I suspect these are just IR LED blinkers that can be dropped at a location to mark a place of interest and then are seen by the drones IR imaging. These I suspect are used for marking places but I doubt they're used directly for targeting (too many things can go wrong). Taliban/AQ claim to have found some of these (there are photos on the net). Despite the typos (the US telling the US ... say what) the outline of the US doing technical intelligence and passing info to the ISI for operations seems reasonable. Are tehy using NGOs? Maybe but perhaps not. Are they debriefing NGOs later for general intelligence: I would suspect they would. CIA and SIS did this sort of thing in the Cold War and I see no reason to stop.

Blackwater is a bogey man for these folks. And aside from using them for hiring drone armorers, mechanics, cooks, base security at secrete locations in Pakistan (the first of those seems to be true) I doubt they're used in the field. I suspect CIA might use members of its SAD group for monitoring the "super HVTs" or even independents (meaning really independent) ex-SF (US, UK, Aussie, or other NATO nationals) if they want boots on the ground. I suspect its less likley they're using UK, US, etc military SF on the ground as the diplomatic blow back would be very, very bad and a big propaganda win for the Taliban. I suspect that if we knew where a super HVT was we would put boots on the ground to get them regardless of the Pakistani government: we did do this once before in September 2008 and perhaps on other occasions too e.g. see this article.

I suspect most of the CIA work is a mixture of local HUMINT (running Afghani and Pakistani agents, both Pashtun, across the border), imaging, SIGINT, ELINT and remote sensing. As COP Chapman showed the Taliban/AQ would love nothing more than capturing US CIA or UK SIS on the ground in Pakistan. They could have a field day with that one.

And other bits probably ring true (though the mention of "complete profile on their super computers" sounds like someone has been watching Spooks or 24 Hours too many times. I don't doubt they have info system keeping this data (they must have) but the phrasing is just too Hollywood.

Gait analysis (ID from walking and other movements) is an area a lot of folks have been working on for some time. It seems like a good idea when you can't get good detailed imaging (say of a face or if the person is masked). The work in the public domain is not ready for use yet: the real issue is getting a reference "gait". It's possible that "the CIA" (or perhaps the NRO ... they do imagery after all) do have working gait analysis systems. Or it might be they have trained humans doing this as we are very very good at doing this unconsciously for people we know. I could imagine a trained human who having watched movies of a person moving who they know to be a HVT then being used to pick out a HVT at a meeting (even though he's making efforts not to be seen ... same dress, wearing masks, more than one group of "bodyguards" with decoy HVTs). But it's still a long shot.

They may also have other "interesting" (research) hardware that has be talked about: small helicopter or ducted fan drones for dropping remote sensing packages ground sampling post strike if they really use DNA (though I suspect their "DNA confirmation" is mostly SIGINT and HUMINT).

As I've said before in twenty year we may find out.