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Taliban commander reported killed in US strike in North Waziristan


The US has carried out its second airstrike in 24 hours in Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan. A Taliban commander is reported to have been among the five people killed in the strike.

Today's strike took place in the village of Tabbi Tolkhel near Miramshah, the main town in North Waziristan. An unmanned Predator or the more deadly Reaper fired two missiles at a known "militant compound" in the village, Pakistani intelligence officials told Geo News.

Five people were reported to have been killed, including a Taliban commander identified as Hamza Mehsud, according to Xinhua. Geo News put the number of people killed at three, and claimed they were all "rebels," a term used to describe the Taliban, al Qaeda, and the vast number of Central and South Asian terror groups operating in North Waziristan.

The Miramshah region is a stronghold of the Haqqani Network, the al Qaeda-linked terror group that operates in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Haqqani Network is supported by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence directorate and operates under the aegis of the Quetta Shura, the top Afghan Taliban council led by Mullah Mohammed Omar.

Siraj Haqqani leads the Miramshah shura, one of the four regional councils for the Afghan Taliban. He also sits on al Qaeda's Shura Majlis, or top decision-making body.

Siraj is reported to have met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai earlier this week at the behest of General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Pakistan's top military leader, and Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the head of Pakistan's terrorist-linked Inter-Services Intelligence directorate. The meeting was designed to negotiate an end to the Afghan insurgency and bring the Haqqani Network into the government.

Background on US strikes in Pakistan

Today's strike was preceded by another on Saturday, when a US Predator fired a missile at a compound in the Mir Ali region in North Waziristan. Two "militants" were reported to have been killed, but their identities have not been disclosed.

Today's strike is the sixth reported inside Pakistan this month. Three of the five prior strikes took place over the course of 24 hours on June 10-11. The first strike, on June 10, killed two low-level Arab al Qaeda military commanders and a Turkish foreign fighter.

A US attack on June 19 in Mir Ali killed an al Qaeda commander named Abu Ahmed, 11 members of the Islamic Jihad Group, and four Taliban fighters.

So far this year, the US has carried out 44 strikes in Pakistan; all but two of them have taken place in North Waziristan. The US is well on its way to exceeding last year's strike total in Pakistan. 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 LWJ Special Report, "Charting the data for US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 - 2010."]

Over the past several months, unmanned US Predator and Reaper strike aircraft have been pounding Taliban and al Qaeda hideouts in North Waziristan, and have also struck at targets in South Waziristan and Khyber, 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."]

In early April, a top terrorist leader claimed that the US program had been crippled. 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 had "decreased 90 percent" since the Dec. 30, 2009, suicide attack on Combat Outpost Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan, that killed seven CIA employees and a Jordanian intelligence officer. While other factors may be involved in the decreased effectiveness in killing the top-tier leaders, an analysis of the data shows that only three 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.]

But the US scored its biggest success in the air campaign in Pakistan last month. On May 21, a US strike in North Waziristan killed Mustafa Abu Yazid, one of al Qaeda's top leaders, and the most senior al Qaeda leader to have been killed in the US air campaign in Pakistan to date.

Yazid served as the leader of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and the wider Khorasan, and more importantly, as al Qaeda's top financier, which put him in charge of the terror group's purse strings. He served on al Qaeda's Shura Majlis, or top decision-making council. Yazid also was closely allied with the Taliban and advocated the program of embedding small al Qaeda teams with Taliban forces in Afghanistan.

Pakistani and US officials believed that one of the top Taliban leaders in Pakistan was killed in a strike this year. Up until May 2, most US and Pakistani officials believed that Hakeemullah Mehsud, the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, had been killed in a Jan. 14 strike in Pasalkot in North Waziristan. The CIA had been furiously hunting Hakeemullah after he appeared on a videotape with the suicide bomber who carried out the attack on Combat Outpost Chapman.

But after four months of silence on the subject, the Taliban released two tapes to prove that Hakeemullah is alive. On both of the tapes, Hakeemullah said the Taliban will carry out attacks inside the US. The tapes were released within 24 hours of an attempted car bombing in New York City by Faisal Shahzad, who was trained by the Taliban in North Waziristan. Hakeemullah's tapes were released along with another by his deputy, Qari Hussain Mehsud, who claimed responsibility for the attempted bombing in New York City.

US strikes in Pakistan in 2010:

Taliban commander reported killed in US strike in North Waziristan
June 27, 2010
US airstrike kills 2 in North Waziristan
June 26, 2010
US strike kills 16 in North Waziristan
June 19, 2010
US kills 14 in 2 strikes in North Waziristan
June 11, 2010
US Predator strike kills 3 in North Waziristan
June 10, 2010
US kills 11 in Predator strike in South Waziristan
May 28, 2010
US airstrike kills 6 in North Waziristan
May 21, 2010
US Predators carry out first strike in Khyber
May 15, 2010
US pounds Taliban in pair of strikes in North Waziristan
May 11, 2010
US airstrike kills 10 'rebels' in North Waziristan
May 9, 2010
US airstrike kills 4 'militants' in North Waziristan
May 3, 2010
US strike kills 8 Taliban in North Waziristan
April 26, 2010
US airstrike kills 7 Taliban in North Waziristan
April 24, 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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