Pakistani security officials claimed that 33 Uzbek fighters and three German jihadists were among the 40 people killed in yesterday’s airstrikes in the Mir Ali and Datta Khel areas of North Waziristan. The report is unconfirmed, but if true, the Uzbeks and Germans are likely members of the al Qaeda-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan or the splinter Islamic Jihad Union.
“Important commanders were also among those killed in the onslaught,” Dawn reported. “These include Wali Mohammad and Asmat Shaheen. Maulvi Farhad Uzbek and Shaheen Betini were also among those killed.”
Two of those names are derivations of Asmatullah Shaheen Bhittani, the emir of the “supreme shura” of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan who served as the temporary leader of the group after Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a US drone strike last year. There are no reports that Asmatullah was killed in yesterday’s airstrikes.
Additionally, an unconfirmed report at Daily Times claimed that Adnan Rasheed, the leader of the Ansar al Aseer, was also killed yesterday. But Pakistani Taliban members denied the reports. Rasheed is reported to have been spotted at the Mir Ali bazaar after his home was leveled [see LWJ report, Pakistan launches airstrikes in North Waziristan after Taliban suicide attacks].
The Pakistani Air Force launched the punitive airstrikes in North Waziristan against “militant hideouts” after the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan carried out two suicide attacks over the past several days in Rawalpindi and Bannu that killed 31 soldiers and Frontier Corps troops, as well as five civilians.
On multiple occasions over the past several years, the Pakistani military has promised the West that it would launch an offensive in North Waziristan to clear the tribal agency of the Taliban and al Qaeda, but it has failed to do so. Groups such as the Haqqani Network and Hafiz Gul Bahadar’s Taliban faction operate in the open in North Waziristan, and are considered “good Taliban” by Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment as they do not openly support jihad against the state. Many Pakistani officials view these two groups, and a number of others, as “strategic depth,” or proxies to be used against India, the US, and Afghanistan.
But the Haqqanis and Bahadar wage war in Afghanistan, and shelter and support al Qaeda, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, and a host of terror groups that attack the Pakistani state and promote international jihad.