Pakistani soldiers and Taliban fighters clashed over the wreckage of an unmanned US strike aircraft that crashed in the lawless tribal agency of South Waziristan.
The Predator or the more heavily armed Reaper crashed last night in the town of Zangara in the Ladha area of South Waziristan. According to reports from the region, Taliban forces under the command of Azmatullah Diwana seized the wreckage of the drone after it crashed. Although Azmatullah claimed the Taliban shot the aircraft down, the cause of the crash is not yet known.
The Pakistani military dispatched troops to take control of the wreckage after intercepting Taliban radio transmissions. Three Taliban fighters and a Pakistani solider were reported killed in the ensuing clash. Pakistani troops also deployed helicopter gunships to strafe Taliban positions during the fight.
It is unclear whether the drone debris is in the possession of the Pakistani military or the Taliban. Azmatullah claimed his forces repelled the military, while Pakistani security officials claimed they took control of the wreckage.
The crash and the ensuing fight took place in an area that is dominated by the Mehsud tribe and the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. Baitullah Mehsud, the group’s founder and first emir, was killed in a Predator airstrike in Zangara in August 2009. Zangara was also the location of a Taliban training camp. The US killed 16 Taliban and al Qaeda fighters in a Predator strike on the Zangara camp on July 7, 2009.
Azmatullah Diwana is another name for Maulvi Azmatullah, the military commander who is number five on the Pakistani military’s list of 20 most-wanted Taliban leaders in South Waziristan. The Taliban’s top leadership in South Waziristan still remains intact. Since the Pakistani military released the list in the fall of 2009, only two Taliban leaders have been killed and one other has been captured.
In mid-November of 2009, the Pakistani military claimed to have defeated the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan’s branch in South Waziristan after having launched an operation there. But the Taliban group withdrew its forces from the Mehsud tribal areas and relocated to neighboring tribal areas. Azmatullah’s presence in the Ladha area indicates that the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan has returned in force to South Waziristan.
- Pakistan troops battle Taliban for US drone debris, Dawn
- Pakistan troops fight Taliban after US drone crash, BBC
- US drone crashes in Pakistan: security officials, AFP
- Senior Taliban commander reported killed in South Waziristan, The Long War Journal
- Pakistan captures wanted South Waziristan Taliban commander, The Long War Journal
- Wanted Taliban commander killed in shootout in North Waziristan, The Long War Journal
- US Predator strike kills 16 Taliban and al Qaeda in South Waziristan, The Long War Journal
- Baitullah Mehsud is dead, says Pakistani Taliban deputy, The Long War Journal