US Predators kill 7 'militants' in North Waziristan
US Predators struck for the third day in a row in Pakistan's lawless tribal agencies, killing seven "militants" today in an area of North Waziristan that has not previously been targeted in the eight years since the drone strike program began.
The CIA-operated Predators, or the more deadly Reapers, fired four missiles at a compound in the Ramzak area of North Waziristan, Pakistani officials told The Associated Press. Between four and seven "militants" were killed in the strike, according to Geo News; AP put the number of deaths at seven.
The identities of those killed have not been disclosed, and no senior Taliban or al Qaeda leaders have been reported killed.
The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan is known to operate in the Ramzak area of North Waziristan. In the past, the terror group has clashed with Pakistani troops in the region. Ramzak is also the site of a large Pakistani military base.
The Predator strikes, by the numbers
Today's strike is the third in Pakistan's tribal areas in three days, and is the third reported strike this month. Two days ago, Predators killed five Taliban fighters in Miramshah in North Waziristan. And yesterday, the Predators killed 18 members of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and "foreign fighters" in the Baber Ghar area in South Waziristan.
The US carried out nine drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas last month, killing several top al Qaeda, Taliban, and Haqqani Network commanders [see LWJ report, 2 senior al Qaeda leaders killed in recent drone strikes in Pakistan].
Over the past year, the pace of the US strikes has been uneven, but the monthly strike totals have generally decreased. From January through September 2011, the strikes in Pakistan were as follows: nine strikes in January, three in February, seven in March, two in April, seven in May, 12 in June, three in July, six in August, four in September, and nine in October. In the last four months of 2010, the US averaged almost 16 strikes per month (21 in September, 16 in October, 14 in November, and 12 in December).
So far this year, the US has carried out 66 strikes in Pakistan. In 2010, the US carried out 117 strikes, which was more than double the number of strikes that had occurred in 2009; by late August 2010, the US had exceeded 2009's strike total of 53 with a strike in Kurram. In 2008, the US carried out a total of 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 - 2011.]
In 2010 the strikes were concentrated almost exclusively in North Waziristan, where the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, the Haqqani Network, al Qaeda, and a host of Pakistani and Central and South Asian terror groups are based. All but 13 of the 117 strikes took place in North Waziristan. Of the 13 strikes occurring outside of North Waziristan in 2010, seven were in South Waziristan, five were in Khyber, and one was in Kurram.
This year, that pattern has changed, as an increasing number of strikes are taking place in South Waziristan. So far in 2011, 23 of the 66 strikes have taken place in South Waziristan, 42 strikes were in North Waziristan, and one was 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. The campaign has been largely successful in focusing on terrorist targets and avoiding civilian casualties, as recently affirmed by the Pakistani military.
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 - 2011.