US strike kills 8 Taliban in North Waziristan

The US killed eight Taliban fighters today in the second airstrike in three days in Pakistan’s lawless tribal agency of North Waziristan.

An unknown number of Predators or the more deadly Reapers hit a compound owned by a known Taliban commander in the Khushali Toorkhel area just outside of Miramshah in North Waziristan. The US strike aircraft fired three missiles at the compound owned by known “local rebel commander Haleem Khan,” a Pakistani security official told AFP.

Most of the eight Taliban fighters killed in the attack are said to be from South Waziristan. Khan is not thought to have been killed in the attack, and no senior al Qaeda or Taliban fighters have been reported killed at this time.

Today’s airstrike took place in a region administered by North Waziristan Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Bahadar. Al Qaeda and allied Pakistani and Central Asian jihadi groups shelter in Bahadar’s tribal areas, and they also run training camps and safe houses in the region. The Pakistani military has indicated that it has no plans to take on Bahadar or the Haqqani Network, a deadly Taliban group that is closely allied with al Qaeda and is also based in North Waziristan.

On April 24, the Taliban in North Waziristan ambushed a military convoy, killing two officers and six soldiers. The Taliban claimed 20 soldiers were killed in the attack. The military has not responded to the violation of a peace agreement it has with Bahadar.

Bahadar is also allowing Taliban fighters from the Mehsud tribes in South Waziristan to take sanctuary in his tribal areas, also in violation of his peace agreement with the government.

US strikes in Pakistan, by the numbers

Today’s strike is the fifth reported inside Pakistan this month, and the second in three days. On April 24, US aircraft killed seven Taliban fighters in a strike in Marsi Khel.

The US is well on its way to exceeding last year’s strike total in Pakistan. So far this year, the US has carried out 31 strikes in Pakistan; all of the strikes this year 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 prot

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