The US launched an airstrike in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan today, killing five “militants” in an area known to host al Qaeda and other foreign terror groups. The drone strike is the first recorded in Pakistan in nearly four weeks.
The CIA-operated, remotely piloted Predators or the more deadly Reapers fired upwards of six missiles at a compound in the Spin Wam area of North Waziristan. The airstrike leveled the compound and killed five people and wounded several more, according to reports from the region.
The target of the strike has not been identified, and no senior Taliban or al Qaeda commanders have been reported killed at this time.
The Spin Wam area is close to the tribal agency of Kurram, another hotspot for the Taliban and a host of Pakistani and foreign terror groups. The US has conducted at least one strike in Spin Wam, on Oct. 27, 2010. Two “militants” were killed in the attack.
Today’s strike broke a 26-day pause in the attacks in Pakistan; the last strike was on Jan. 10. The US has launched eight drone strikes in Pakistan so far this year.
Four senior and midlevel al Qaeda and Taliban leaders are reported to have been killed in the eight strikes since the beginning of 2013. The US killed Mullah Nazir, the leader of a Taliban group in South Waziristan who was closely allied with Bahadar, al Qaeda, and the Afghan Taliban, in a strike on Jan. 3. In a second strike on Jan. 3, the US killed Faisal Khan, a Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan commander. In one of two strikes on Jan. 6, the US killed Wali Mohammed, a Taliban commander who is said to have directed suicide operations for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. And in one of the two strikes on Jan. 8, an al Qaeda leader known as Sheikh Yasin Al Kuwaiti is reported to have been killed.
Last year, the US launched 46 strikes in Pakistan, according to data compiled by The Long War Journal. In 2011, the US launched 64 strikes; in 2010, when the program was at its peak, there were 117 strikes.
The program was ramped up by President George W. Bush in the summer of 2008 (35 strikes were launched that year) and continued under President Barack Obama after he took office in 2009 (53 strikes that year). From 2004-2007, only 10 strikes were recorded. Although some of al Qaeda’s top leaders have been killed in drone strikes since the program began in 2004, al Qaeda has been able to replace those lost in the attacks. [For data on the strikes, see LWJ reports, Charting the data for US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2013; and Senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders killed in US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2013.]
The US has targeted al Qaeda’s top leaders and its external operations network, and the assortment of Taliban and Pakistani jihadist groups operating in the region. The strikes have largely been confined to a small kill box consisting of North and South Waziristan. Of the 333 strikes recorded since 2004, 316, or 95%, have taken place in the two tribal agencies.