Taliban avenge death of commander killed in October drone strike


Pak-Taliban-most-wanted.jpg

Eight South Waziristan Taliban commanders, pictured in a wanted poster: 1. Hakeemullah Mehsud, 2. Waliur Rehman Mehsud, 3. Qari Hussain Mehsud, 4. Azam Tariq, 5. Maulvi Azmatullah, 6. Mufti Noor Wali, 7. Asmatullah Bhittani, 8. Mohammad Anwar Gandapur.

The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan killed one Pakistani soldier and captured 15 more in a raid that was carried out to avenge the death of a senior commander who was killed in a US Predator airstrike in October.

A group of 35 heavily armed Taliban fighters overran a Frontier Corps fort in the settled district of Tank earlier today, according to The Associated Press. "The militants burned down buildings and captured a significant amount of weapons," AP reported.

One Frontier Corps trooper was killed and two more were wounded during the fighting. Twenty-two troops were missing after the battle, and 15 of them were later confirmed to have been captured by the Taliban. Seven others returned to the fort.

The assault was led by Asmatullah Shaheen [shown above], the Taliban's military commander in the towns of Jandola and Tank. He is better known as Asmatullah Bhittani, and has openly recruited Pakistanis to wage jihad against the US in Afghanistan. He is on the Pakistani government's list of the 20-most-wanted Taliban commanders, which was released in the fall of 2009. Since the list was released, only one commander has been killed and another has been captured.

Shaheen said that the attack in Tank was carried out to avenge the death of Taj Gul Mehsud, who was reported to have been killed along with 12 other fighters in a US airstrike on Oct. 26 (his death was not confirmed until now). Taj Gul Mehsud has been described as a senior deputy to Hakeemullah Mehsud, the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, which is based in Pakistan's tribal areas and the northwest.

The US has put the drone program, which hunts senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders as well as dangerous operatives, on hold since the Nov. 26 clash with Pakistani forces in Mohmand that resulted in the deaths of 24 Pakistani troops. The last strike took place 36 days ago, on Nov. 16.

The current pause in strikes is the longest since the program was expanded in the summer of 2008. A US intelligence official told The Long War Journal that the program is "on hold" so as not to contribute to the deteriorating relations between the US and Pakistan. Officials said the pause would be broken only if a high-value target were identified, but would not say how senior the al Qaeda leader must be for another strike to occur.



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READER COMMENTS: "Taliban avenge death of commander killed in October drone strike"

Posted by wallbangr at December 23, 2011 4:27 PM ET:

Seems like Shaheen has little to worry about now that the Paks have all but raised the white flag in the war on terror. The irony is somewhat satisfuing, if in a guilty-pleasure kind of way: that the dog is still biting the hand that fed it. I think the Paks had better get used to it.

The fate of the 15 captured is grim, considering the proclivities of the TTP. I don't care if you are outnumbered 2:1 (2 killed plus 15 captured = 17 versus 35 TTP) or not, one would have to think that fighting to the death would have been preferred to being captured alive. Save one round for yourself, and all that.

Posted by Eddie D. at December 23, 2011 11:51 PM ET:

Our people need to quit being so nice, and, pursue these murderers where ever they run and hide, and, if Pakistan or anyone else wants to defend them, then go for them too. I have this feeling that when Pakistan starts feeling the effects of that missing aid money, that the USA gives so freely, they will welcome us back with keys to the city, and, possibly have Zawahiri chained and cuffed, waiting for our arrival.

Posted by mike merlo at December 24, 2011 12:23 PM ET:

This is good news. The Pakistani 'Taliban' might be 'our' enemy but at least they can be counted on to go after the Pakistani military.

Posted by Devin Leonard at December 24, 2011 4:33 PM ET:

This is all the more reason for the backstabbing, incompetent Pakis to WANT us to continue our drone strikes...we could be killing guys like these, but no...the Pakis are too busy shooting themselves in the foot by keeping our predator and reaper drones grounded because of their little hissy fit. Our drones or Spec Ops guys could be making mince meat out of these Taliban commanders but hey I guess the Pakis would rather sacrifice thier own soldiers then act like grown ups.

Posted by Mr T at December 27, 2011 1:20 PM ET:

"Seven others returned to the fort"

What does that mean? It sounded very strange to me. A fort is under attack and they somehow left the fort? Did they run away? Did they escape somehow? Were they captured and released and returned to the fort after release? Maybe they were complicit in aiding the attackers and left the fort until the fighting was over. Something is not sounding right.

25 or so soldiers with lots of weapons defending a fortified position were attacked by 35 people in open terrain and they were overrun?

Posted by Neonmeat at December 28, 2011 4:45 AM ET:

@ Devin Leonard,

I agree I think the Pakistanis in reality know this to be a fact. However the their impotent government is stuck under the the thumb of the Army and ISI, and also the public pressure created by the anti-US rallies we have seen just last week. They would rather hold onto power with the blessing of these quasi religious/militant groups within Pakistan than attempt to make a real change in their country and move them into the modern world and a better life for their citizens. Politicians that go against the mold and speak out against this apathy and corruption are essentially sidelined or in the worst cases murdered by the religious nuts who hold the sway of public opinion. Its sick but it seems to me they are happy to let their troops be murdered and beheaded by the Taliban if it keeps them in a position of power and stops them looking like a weak puppet of the United States, this goes for the Army even more so as they actually are the power brokers. Pakistan is a country with too much pride in itself, never realising it has so very little to be proud of.

Posted by Nolan at January 16, 2012 4:09 PM ET:

I was under the impression that Asmatullah Bhittani had been killed last December. Gunned down as it were. http://www.dawn.com/2010/12/23/taliban-commander-killed-in-pakistan-officials.html. It must be noted that yet again these are the now infamously incorrect "Pakistani intel officials," but in keeping tabs on the wanted TTP elements I haven't seen his name mentioned since. In the above article, I only saw the spokesman Ehsanullah quoted.

Posted by Nolan at January 17, 2012 3:53 PM ET:

Disregard the above comment, I completely overlooked the following article that I found filed in my research: http://www.asianage.com/international/taliban-commander-killed-pakistan-004.
So it appears an Asmatullah Mehsud was killed and not Shaheen last December. At first, I wondered if this Asmatullah Mehsud matched with the Asmatullah Mehsud who appears on the list of South Waziristan's most wanted along with Shaheen. It appears not as it would have been mentioned by now. Plus, the Maulvi Asmatullah mentioned as Waliur Rahman Mehsud's rep on the Shura e Murakeba is probably the one from the list. On top of all of that, there's this article from when Maulvi Asmatullah fought for a downed drone. I'd almost forgotten that. http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2011/09/taliban_pakistani_tr_2.php