Airstrikes on Bajaur Training Camps

Bajaur madrassa and training camp hit by helicopter assault; up to 80 killed

Satellite map of Bajaur and neighboring Kunar province in Afghanistan. Location of strike in Chingai in red. Click image to view.

Just two days after Faqir Mohammed held a tribal meeting in Bajaur to express support for the Taliban and al Qaeda, and vowed to fight the West, the Pakistani government conducted a major strike against a madrassa being used as a terror training camp. Up to 80 were killed in what appears to be a helicopter assault on the camp in the Bajaur town of Chenagai. Pakistan’s The News reports “the operation involved army helicopter gunships and precision weapons.”

“We had information about the presence of 70 to 80 miscreants who were engaging in militant training in a madrassa in Khar,” said Pakistani spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan. “The compound has been destroyed.” The term “miscreant” is often used to describe ‘foreigners,’ or al Qaeda. Dawn reports “The bodies of 20 people wrapped in sheets were laid out at funeral prayers nearby after the attack.” News reports are beginning to claim children were killed in the attack, which is possible as the Taliban has been know to place civilians in military sites to create such a situation. Madrassa are also used to indoctrinate youths into the Taliban’s radical ideology. An American intelligence source tells us that this was but one of “22 known camps in the Federally Administered Tribal Agencies.”

Pakistani tribesmen offer prayers during a funeral of Taliban who died in the Pakistani military attack. Image courtesy of the Associated Press. Click image to view.

It is not believed any major al Qaeda figures were present at the time of the strike. A good sign of this will be if any Uzbeks or Chechens are reported killed, as these two groups have deep roots in the Taliban and al Qaeda in the region. Liaquat Hussain, the person that ran the madrassa, was believed to have been killed. And the ubiquitous Faqir Mohammed, who hosted the January Taliban and al Qaeda leadership dinner party in Damadola, is also believed to have been inside the mosque during the strike. His death has not been confirmed. The custom of immediately burying the dead in unmarked graves makes it difficult to quickly identify those killed. The recent confirmation of the death of Muhsin Musa Matwalli Atwah highlights this problem. He was killed in a similar strike in Danda Saidgai in North Waziristan in April of 2006, and was only positively identified at the end of October.

While the Pakistanis are taking credit for this strike, the question arises as to whether this may have been conducted by Task Force 145, the U.S. special operations terrorist hunter-killer teams. Task Force 145 was responsible for the April raid in Danda Saidgai on the al Qaeda’s training camp for Osama bin Laden’s Black Guard, his elite praetorian guard. Pakistan initially took credit for the Danda Saidgai strikes, but the Washington Post later revealed this was indeed a U.S. mission. Dawn notes the raid occurred “at around 5:00 am,” which means it was conducted in the dark. Pakistani helicopter pilots would need night training in flight and targeting.

A question that arises is: will the Pakistani government proceed with negotiating a ‘Bajaur Accord,’ an agreement modeled on the Waziristan Accord, where the Pakistani government surrendered local control to the Taliban and al Qaeda? “This attack is very strange as we were told Sunday that the peace agreement would be signed today,” the Associated Press quotes local lawmaker Mohammed Sadiq. The April strike in Danda Saidgai did not preclude the government or the Taliban and al Qaeda for signing the Waziristan Accord just five month later.

Another question is what is the motivation for the strike? Just days ago, the Pakistani government released nine al Qaeda linked members of Faqir Mohammed’s staff. This, along with the signing of the Waziristan Accord and the subsequent increase of infiltration and attacks along the Afghan side of the border has caused an international backlash against the Pakistani government. The Pakistanis have a knack for delivering a high level al Qaeda leader or conducting a high profile strike when the need arises. The strike on Danda Saidgai occurred just as President Bush visited Pakistan and less than a week after the bombing of the Karachi Consulate that killed a U.S. diplomat. Britain’s Prince Charles, the future King of England, is currently visiting Pakistan. The NATO commander in Afghanistan, General James Jones, has just visited Pakistan and stated “the movements [of Taliban and al Qaeda] across the border have increased since the signing of agreements on the other side of the border,” referring to the Wazristan Accord.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.



  • C says:

    Just days ago, the Pakistani government released nine al-Qaeda linked members of Faqir Mohammed’s staff.
    And poor old Faqir Mohammed may well have been blown up shortly after those guys returned.
    Hmmm. You don’t think somebody put a tail on them hoping they would lead back to the nest, do you?
    Maybe Mushy hasn’t turned coat after all.

  • RT says:

    Faqir mohammed is not someone who needed to be traced. He regularly visits Pakistan army bases. If this was a real operation and not one of Musharraf’s “show and tell” stunts that coincided with Prince Charles’ visit, then it was likely carried out by coalition forces.

  • the nailgun says:

    What I find interesting is if it is shown to be COTW will there be much backlash “violation of sovereignty” etc. Thus far I gather there is none but why would there be if Pakistan claims credit. Hopefully we will see many more of these type operations and these “accords” prove to be a hollow victory for AQ and Taliban

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  • Matt says:

    Never forget that Musharraf continues to call A.Q. Khan a “national hero” to this day.
    A.Q. Khan is THE greatest proliferator of nuclear weapons know-how to rogue states such as North Korea, Iran and others. A true and absolute terrorist of the worst sort. And Musharraf won’t even let the USA ask him any direct questions.
    An ally? More like our biggest enemy.

  • tblubrd says:

    I have to agree with Matt – mostly. A. Q. Khan may be a “national hero” to Pakistan but he is nothing more than a nuclear arms proliferator (if that is a word).
    Suggesting that Task Force 145 was involved makes sense – but I suspect they were not. There was no high profile target known and TF145 doesn’t just hit empty spots – unless this was a practice run to test the waters of Pakistan’s true colors. With intelligence already noting there are 22 “known training camps”, popping one doesn’t sound like a job for TF145. Hitting six or more in one night – now that’s a coordination issue they could handle.

  • Cruiser says:

    I suspect for several reasons that the attack was carried out by TF 145 (or whatever its number is now).
    First, it was carried-out in the dark. Pakistan ability to coordinate and carry-out a strike by helicopter in the dark is questionable.
    Second, the attack was ferocious, like the Danda Saidgai strike and the last attempt on Zawahiri (both of which are believed to have been conducted by the U.S.). I do not think the Pakistanis are willing to be that ferocious against their own tribals.
    Third, the attack successfully killed a large number of militants, which means it was a surprise. If Pakistan had carried out the strike, the militants would have likely been warned in advance.

  • Cruiser says:

    ABC says it was a US predator strike tageting Zawahiri. We can only hope it was successful. Sounds like they are certain it got the planner of the UK airlines plot.

  • Cruiser says:

    I think that the story that it was Predators is meant to be less offensive to Pakistanis. It is more tolerable to have unmannned drones flying (and attacking) then manned helos. My guess is that it was actually Apaches from the US forces Afghanistan or a C130H, or both (people said they heard helicopters you would not hear a Predator).

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  • sammy small says:

    Special Ops doesn’t fly Apaches. They use armed Blackhawks (DAPs) and armed Little Birds when necessary. However, it seems unlikely they would be used here unless there were ground troops involved. There’s no big benefit to be had over Predators or 130s. But anything’s possible.

  • davod says:

    I doubt if they would use the C130s in Pakistan. To big a footprint if anything went wrong.

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  • Right Moment says:

    Madrasah go BOOM.

    It’s about time someone violently put the thought into the head of Jihadists that a safe haven Madrassas do not make.

  • TallDave says:

    Heh. This is negotiation, Paki-style.

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  • Zamer khan says:

    why they are killing the poor boys? those who inspire these children are safe and enjoy lexurious life in different cities of the country.QaziHussein Ahmad leader of Jamaat Islami and Mulana Fazal ul Rahman and other leaders always call for holy war against the infidels.They openly support the sucide bombers and stimulate yengers to attacks on NATO forces in Affghanistan,but no one take notice of these leaders.It is surpraised that the teachers are free to do and respected by the government officials,but they hate and kill their students.All those who realy interested to stop terioraism and exteremism must stop the sources.who r the teachers of Extremism? must be realised,must be identified and must be arrest.

  • Zaman Khan Bajauri says:

    It was the american CIA who initiated these Terrorist activities in Tribal areas.To fight red armies in the region they haired the services of Jammat Islami. After the withdrwl of the red armies CIA stoped the acttivitie and after some 12 years of the Jeneva Agreement Pakistan also baned the terriorest Organozation.But Jammat Isalmi the Most terriorest Orgnization in the world is still Legally valid. Kow it is right time to ban the terriorest Organozation Jamaat Islami.

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