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US strikes kill 6 in North Waziristan


Unmanned US strike aircraft killed six Taliban fighters during attacks in Pakistan's lawless tribal agency of North Waziristan.

A flight of Predators or its more muscular brothers, the Reapers, hit a Taliban compound and two vehicles in the town of Tolkhel near Miramshah in North Waziristan. The Predators fired their missiles in two waves. Seven missiles total were fired, according to a report in Dawn.

The first strike hit a Taliban compound and vehicle, while the second strike appears to have hit during the Taliban's attempt to recover the dead and wounded.

"Missiles hit a car carrying militants and as soon as other people rushed into help, more missiles were fired by drones," a Pakistani security official told AFP.

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.

Today's strike is the third reported inside Pakistan this month, and the third in five days. On April 14, US aircraft fired two missiles on a vehicle near Miramshah as the Taliban fighters stopped to pray, killing four Taliban fighters.

US strikes in Pakistan, by the numbers

The US is well on its way in exceeding last year's strike total in Pakistan. So far this year, the US has carried out 29 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 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.

A few days ago, Siraj Haqqani, the leader of the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network, said that the effectiveness of US airstrikes in killing senior Taliban and al Qaeda leaders has "decreased 90 percent" since the suicide attack on Combat Outpost Chapman. While other factors may be involved in the decreased effectiveness in killing the top-tier leaders, an analysis of the data shows that only two top-tier commanders have been killed since Jan 1, 2010, but seven top-tier leaders were killed between Aug.1, 2009, and Dec. 31, 2009. [See LWJ report, "Effectiveness of US strikes in Pakistan 'decreased 90 percent' since suicide strike on CIA - Siraj Haqqani" for more information.]

US strikes in Pakistan in 2010:

US strikes kill 6 in North Waziristan
April 16, 2010
US strike kills 4 in Taliban stronghold of North Waziristan
April 14, 2010
US strike kills 5 Taliban in North Waziristan
April 12, 2010
US strikes kill 6 in North Waziristan
March 30, 2010
US strike kills 4 in North Waziristan
March 27, 2010
US kills 6 in strike against Haqqani Network
March 23, 2010
US strike kills 4 in North Waziristan
March 21, 2010
US kills 8 terrorists in 2 new airstrikes in North Waziristan
March 17, 2010
US Predator strike in North Waziristan kills 11 Taliban, al Qaeda
March 16, 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



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READER COMMENTS: "US strikes kill 6 in North Waziristan"

Posted by ArneFufkin at April 16, 2010 10:41 AM ET:

I find the tempo of these engagements intriguing.

Posted by kp at April 16, 2010 5:44 PM ET:

The "double tap" is interesting too. This doesn't appear to be the case for the two recent strikes. They either wanted to make sure the people in the first strike were dead or wanted someone in the "rescue" group. This may be a HVT.

Posted by kp at April 16, 2010 6:20 PM ET:

I just read the AFP article not the Dawn article that has more details: "According to official sources, at least seven missiles fired from US drones hit two vehicles and a house in the Toolkhel area". I must read all links before posting!

Seven Hellfires. On three targets (+ squirters, I presume with that many missiles). Interesting. That's a persistent attack. They really intended to make sure someone was dead.

All the recent ops are in the same region too. They're gnawing at something.

The tempo is really interesting: every other day. Strike. Bury the dead in 24 hours. Strike. Bury the dead in 24 hours. Big Strike. They're watching the clean-up and the funerals, I think.

Perhaps walking up a chain of command perhaps? I mean how can a boss (of a ideologically religious group) not go to the funeral of his fallen comrades. Especially when they were killed when praying.

The first attack in this sequence hit them when praying made me wonder too. After all if they know who these people are (or what they do) then you can hit them any time. Driving along. Stopped for lunch. Whenever but stopped and dismounted is perhaps better. I wonder if there is a psyops element here too: using Inshallah to our advantage or trying to rile the opposition or just trying to catch him at maximum disadvantage?

Posted by lablarry at April 16, 2010 7:13 PM ET:

Wouldnt this many hits mean there was a very HVT present?

Posted by My2cents at April 16, 2010 7:51 PM ET:

They fired 7 missiles and only killed 6 terrorists?

Something must be wrong either with the reporting or the targeting.

Posted by JT at April 16, 2010 9:36 PM ET:

I wonder how the chain of command is withstanding the number of mid level hits that have to be occurring. The every other day or so tempo has been used several times this year. Here's hoping that there will be an announcement soon of a successful hit on a very HVT or two. Most announcements come in weeks not days after the fact for intelligence gathering.

As the summary in this article mentions, here are timeline examples:

Jan 3, 6, 8, 9
Jan. 14, 15, 17, 19
Feb. 14, 15, 17, 18
Mar. 8, 10
Mar. 16, 17
Mar. 21, 23
Mar. 27, 30
Apr. 12, 14, 16

Posted by kp at April 17, 2010 4:42 PM ET:

@JT: Very nice summary.

Some extra items to add to this list that might reveal a pattern would be: number of missiles reported fired; number of discrete targets reported attacked; if the attack involved follow-up strikes or strikes at multiple discrete locations; if HVT killed or not.

Posted by Zeissa at April 19, 2010 7:03 PM ET:

Duh... not all targets are soft. Some need multiple hits with medium-size warheads like these.

Posted by kp at April 20, 2010 10:33 AM ET:

All the targets reportedly hit are soft (unarmoured): two cars, a house. No indication of any armored targets or bunkers hit. I doubt AQ or the Taliban drive around Waziristan in armored vehicles (good enough to withstand a Hellfire hit): they would stick out like a sore thumb.

So I don't think the "Duh" applies here.

Posted by Zeissa at April 20, 2010 12:34 PM ET:

Stranger things have happened then a hellfire not killing all inhabitants of a house or even a soft vehicle. Explosives often act unpredictably due to factors.

I do believe the 'duh' applies. If this was a common occurance it would be strange, but it is not.

It could be poor intel or more like a malfunction, but I believe firing at two for one difficult target at the same time or subsequently if it survived is more likely.

Posted by Zeissa at April 20, 2010 12:48 PM ET:

At any rate, I admit almost all of their vehicles are soft, but even then it is possible to miss a kill. The same goes more for their houses.

Hellfires are reliable near 100% against very soft targets, but not against even light skins and buildings though the percentage is still very high.

Posted by Zeissa at April 20, 2010 12:50 PM ET:

And rereading the article I note the house is a 'compound'. It might still be a regular house, or it might not. Regardless of how much cement there is houses are generally, unless very shoddy (and even then the rubble can protect as well as kill) safer than cars.