The US killed seven people in the first drone strike in Pakistan in six weeks. The attack took place in an area of Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan, and is rumored to have killed the deputy emir for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan.
The CIA-operated, remotely piloted Predators or the more deadly Reapers fired a pair of missiles at a compound in the village of Chashma, which is just outside of Miramshah, the main town in the tribal agency, according to Reuters.
Seven people were killed in the strike and several more were wounded. It is unclear, however, if those killed were civilians or jihadists allied with the Taliban, al Qaeda, or other terrorist groups known to shelter in the area.
Unnamed Pakistani intelligence officials claimed that Waliur Rehman, the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan in South Waziristan and deputy to emir Hakeemullah Mehsud, was killed in the strike. Additionally, an aide known as Fakhar-ul-Islam is said to have been killed in the strike along with “two unknown Uzbek nationals,” according to CNN.
The Pakistani government has not officially stated that Rehman was killed. The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan has neither confirmed nor denied reports of his death.
US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal would not confirm or deny that Rehman was killed, but did say they were aware of reports of his death. One official said that Rehman is on the CIA’s kill list and has been targeted in the past.
The strike took place in an area of North Waziristan that is administered by the Haqqani Network, the al Qaeda-linked Taliban subgroup that operates in eastern Afghanistan and is based in North Waziristan.
The strike is the first in Pakistan since April 17, when US drones targeted a compound in the neighboring tribal agency of South Waziristan.
The program was put on hold for “political considerations,” a US intelligence official involved in the strikes in Pakistan told The Long War Journal several weeks ago. Pakistan held parliamentary elections on May 11, and the chiefs of the two leading parties in the polls, Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan, have been vocal opponents of the US program. Both candidates have also favored negotiations with the al Qaeda-affiliated Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, one of several Taliban factions operating in Pakistan.
Today’s strike is the first since President Barack Obama’s speech last week that outlined a reduced US counterterrorism role in the world. Obama said that the drones, which are currently operated by the CIA, will eventually be turned over to the military, and that the pace of the strikes will be reduced. Obama claimed that al Qaeda has been sufficiently attritted, despite the fact that the terrorist organization has expanded its operations in Pakistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Egypt, and in North and West Africa.
The US has launched 14 drone strikes in Pakistan so far this year, according to data compiled by The Long War Journal. The number of strikes in Pakistan has decreased since a peak in 2010, when 117 such attacks were recorded. In 2011, 64 strikes were launched in Pakistan, and in 2012 there were 46 strikes.
The US has targeted al Qaeda’s top leaders and its external operations network, as well as the assortment of Taliban and Pakistani jihadist groups operating in the region. The strikes have been confined mostly to North and South Waziristan. Of the 339 strikes recorded since 2004, 322, or 95%, have taken place in the two tribal agencies.