US Predator strike kills 4 in South Waziristan


The US has carried out its second Predator strike in South Waziristan in the past 24 hours, killing four Taliban fighters.

Several Predator or the more deadly Reaper unmanned strike aircraft fired four missiles today at a vehicle and a compound used by the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan in the village of Shaktoi Algad in South Waziristan.

"The US drone fired two missiles into a militant compound in Shaktoi and we have reports that four militants have died," a Pakistani intelligence official told AFP. "One missile landed in the compound and another hit a vehicle soon after it entered the premises."

"The vehicle was destroyed and the compound was badly damaged causing the casualties," a Pakistani security official told the news agency. Four Taliban fighters were reported killed and five more are said to have been wounded.

The target of the strike is not known, and no senior Taliban or al Qaeda leaders have been reported killed at this time.

Shaktoi Algad is a village under the influence of Hakeemullah Mehsud, the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. Hakeemullah has been responsible for the wave of suicide attacks and conventional assaults against civilian and military targets throughout Pakistan and in Pakistan-held Kashmir that began on Oct. 5, 2009. He took control of the Pakistani Taliban after Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a US strike in South Waziristan in August 2009.

The US has been actively hunting Hakeemullah since he was discovered to have aided the Dec. 30, 2009, suicide attack by a Jordanian al Qaeda operative at Combat Outpost Chapman in Afghanistan's Khost province. The bomber killed seven CIA officials, including the station chief, and a Jordanian intelligence officer. Hakeemullah appeared on a martyrdom tape with the suicide bomber that was released shortly after the attack.

US and Pakistani officials claimed that Hakeemullah was killed along the North and South Waziristan border in a Predator strike on Jan. 14. Hakeemullah denied the reports, but rumors of his death persisted. These rumors were put to rest when Hakeemullah appeared on a videotape within 24 hours of the failed car bomb attack in Times Square, New York City, on May 1. In the tape, Hakeemullah provided specific dates and threatened further attacks against the US.

Most recently, Hakeemullah appeared on a videotape with Faisal Shahzad, the American citizen who attempted to execute the Times Square attack. Hakeemullah and Shahzad are seen embracing and shaking hands in the short videoclip, while a voiceover from Shahzad said Hakeemullah is loyal to Mullah Omar, the Afghan Taliban leader.

Background on US strikes in Pakistan

The number of strikes has dropped dramatically over the past month. Today's strike is just the third reported inside Pakistan in July. Over the past year, the US has averaged between six to eight strikes a month.

Today's strike also indicates a shift in US targeting may be taking place. Three of the last four strikes have taken place in in South Waziristan; two of those were in tribal areas run by Mullah Nazir. Previously the strikes this year have focused on regions under the control of the Haqqani Network and Hafiz Gul Bahadar in North Waziristan.

So far this year, the US has carried out 48 strikes in Pakistan; all but five have taken place in North Waziristan. The other five strikes took place in South Waziristan and the tribal agency of Khyber.

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.]

Four al Qaeda military commanders and a Taliban commander were killed in airstrikes since mid-June. 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. On June 27, a Taliban commander known as Hamza Mehsud was killed. And on June 29, an al Qaeda operative from Egypt known as Hawza al Jawfi was killed in South Waziristan.

Over the past several months, unmanned US Predator and Reaper strike aircraft have been pounding Taliban and al Qaeda hideouts in the tribal areas 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 in May of this year. 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.


US strikes in Pakistan in 2010:

US Predator strike kills 4 in South Waziristan
July 24, 2010
US airstrike kills 16 in South Waziristan
July 23, 2010
US Predator strike kills 10 in North Waziristan
July 15, 2010
US strikes al Qaeda safehouse in South Waziristan
June 29, 2010
Al Qaeda commander killed in US strike on safehouse in South 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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READER COMMENTS: "US Predator strike kills 4 in South Waziristan"

Posted by Setrak at July 25, 2010 12:05 PM ET:

Shaktoi was pounded earlier this year in the wake of the incident at FOB Chapman in Khost during the pursuit of Hakimullah Mehsud. What's interesting is that according to the Daily Times the first drone strike in Nazir's territory may have targeted Hakimullah Mehsud.( http://dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010/07/25/story_25-7-2010_pg7_4 )