US Predators struck a mosque today in the Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan, killing eight Germans, according to reports from the region.
Unmanned US Predator strike aircraft, or the more deadly Reapers, fired two missiles at a mosque in Mir Ali, the second largest town in North Waziristan. Pakistani intelligence officials said that eight German nationals were killed in the airstrike, Reuters reported.
No senior Taliban or al Qaeda leaders were reported killed in the strike.
The town of Mir Ali is a known stronghold of al Qaeda leader Abu Kasha al Iraqi, an Iraqi national who is also known as Abu Akash. He has close links to the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, the Islamic Jihad Group, and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. The Islamic Jihad Group is based out of the Mir Ali region.
Abu Kasha 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.
The Haqqani Network and Hafiz Gul Bahadar also have influence in the Mir Ali region, and host camps and safe houses for al Qaeda and other terror groups.
Today’s strike is the latest that has targeted Westerners who are training in al Qaeda camps in North Waziristan. The US is seeking to disrupt an al Qaeda plot modeled after the Mumbai terror assault and said to be targeting several major European cities. The plot is said to have been ordered by Osama bin Laden. The US has issued a travel warning to its citizens in Europe, while Britain and Norway have raised their terror alerts.
Eight Germans and two Britons were reported killed in the Sept. 8 Predator strike in Datta Khel. An Islamic Jihad Group commander known as Qureshi was also reported killed in the attack. Qureshi specialized in training Germans to conduct attacks in their home country.
German and Turkish Muslims make up a significant portion of the Islamic Jihad Group. Its fighters are often referred to as German Taliban, and they carry out attacks in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Last year, the Islamic Jihad Group released video of ‘German Taliban villages’ in Waziristan. Its fighters were seen training at camps and conducting military operations.
The Predator strikes, by the numbers
The pace of the strikes since the beginning of September is unprecedented since the US began the air campaign in Pakistan in 2004. The 21 strikes in September is a record number, and with three strikes already this month, the US appears to be prepared to match last month’s pace. The previous high was 11 strikes in January 2010, after the Taliban and al Qaeda executed a successful suicide attack at Combat Outpost Chapman that targeted CIA personnel who were active in gathering intelligence for the Predator campaign in Pakistan. In the bombing at COP Chapman, seven CIA officials and a Jordanian intelligence officer were killed.
The US has carried out 78 attacks inside Pakistan this year, which is more than double the number of strikes in Pakistan just two years ago. The US exceeded last year’s strike total of 53 with a strike in Kurram in late August. In 2008, the US carried out 36 strikes inside Pakistan. [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.]
All but nine of this year’s 78 strikes have taken place in North Waziristan. Of the nine strikes that have occurred outside of North Waziristan, seven took place in South Waziristan, one occurred in Khyber, and one took place in Kurram.
The US campaign in northwestern Pakistan has targeted top al Qaeda leaders, al Qaeda’s external operations network, and Taliban leaders and fighters who threaten both the Afghan and Pakistani states as well as support al Qaeda’s external operations. [For a list of al Qaeda and Taliban leaders killed in the US air campaign in Pakistan, see LWJ Special Report, Senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders killed in US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2010.]