Arab, Asian al Qaeda operatives reported killed in North Waziristan raid

Abu Laith al Libi. Click to view.

The Jan. 29 airstrike against a Taliban safe house in Pakistan’s North Waziristan may have targeted two senior al Qaeda leaders, the Pakistani press is reporting. The airstrike was carried out by US forces in Afghanistan and killed 13, according to local tribesman in the town of Khushali Tari Khel near Mir Ali on the Pakistan-Afghan frontier. Seven Arab members of al Qaeda and six Central Asian operatives were reported killed in the attack. The targets of the strike may have been al Qaeda leaders Abu Laith al Libi and Abu Obaidah al Masri.

Anonymous Pakistani intelligence officials said, based on reports from local tribesmen, that foreign al Qaeda fighters were killed in an attack by US forces from Afghanistan. “This compound was targeted on intelligence intercepts that it was used by foreign al Qaeda militants,” a senior security official told AFP. “After intercepts it was struck by a missile from across the border. Seven Arabs and six central Asians were killed.” Other villagers claimed a Predator unmanned aerial vehicle launched missiles during the nighttime attack.

The compound was owned by Abdus Sattar, who Dawn described as a “driver.” Sattar is reported to have survived the strike. The Taliban have surrounded the attack site to keep outsiders away. “Militants are still keeping the local people away from the place,” a villager told Dawn. The Arabs and Central Asians have been buried in a local cemetery, which will allow a forensics team to identify the remains if they can find the graves.

Two senior al Qaeda leaders, Abu Laith al Libi and Abu Obaidah al Masri, were believed to be the targets of the strike, The News reported. A Taliban spokesman denied the al Qaeda leaders were the location of the attack. One of al Libi’s deputies may have been killed in the strike.

Abu Laith al Libi is a military commander in Afghanistan and also serves as an al Qaeda spokesman. Abu Obaidah al Masri is al Qaeda’s operations chief for the Kunar, Afghanistan. Kunar is a strategic hub for al Qaeda operations in the northeast. Obaidah was thought to have been killed in the January 2006 airstrike on a compound in the Bajaur, Pakistan tribal agency.

At that time, anonymous Pakistani intelligence officials told US officials that claimed six senior al Qaeda operatives were killed in the attack. Pakistani intelligence claimed Midhat Mursi al Sayid Umar (Abu Khabab), al Qaeda’s WMD expert; Abdul Rahman al Maghribi, Zawahiri’s son-in-law and an al Qaeda military commander; Marwan al Suri, the Waziristan operations chief; Khalid Habib, the commander of southeastern Afghanistan commander; Abd al Hadi al Iraqi, a member of al Qaeda’s military committee; and Obaidah were killed in the missile attack. The Washington Post reported almost two years later that they had, in fact, survived the attack. Abd al Hadi al Iraqi was captured while trying to enter Iraq in April 2007.

US and Pakistani covert operations in the tribal belts have had limited success over the past two years. A series of airstrikes and a few ground strikes from early 2006 onward has yielded only two mid-level al Qaeda operatives: Imam Asad, the chief trainer of the Black Guard, and Mohsin Matawalli Atwa, one of the architects of the 1998 attacks on the US Embassies in eastern Africa.

The North Waziristan attack occurred just as the Taliban and the government is preparing to sign a new peace accord. The Pakistani government and US Department of Defense have neither confirmed nor denied the airstrike took place.

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

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8 Comments

  • Lokki says:

    Interesting that the attack was carried out by U.S. forces, even if those forces were not boots on the ground.
    There was a time when the Pakistani’s weren’t willing to admit that this was happening.

  • Tommy says:

    An Al Qaeda website is confirming Al-Libi’s death.
    //www.reuters.com/article/topNews/idUSL3142758420080131

  • Sam says:

    Superb. Why didn’t we hit the whole camp when they swarmed in for search and recovery after the strike? Why don’t we hit the funerals where we can probably take out more than a hundred at once incl more leadership? Surely we can surveil these sites without them being aware of it.
    These are the hardest of the hardcore and I can’t understand why any punches should be pulled.

  • Tommy says:

    Several news websites are covering it now, a Western official is confirming it, and Fox News is running a story on it as I speak.
    WAHOO!!!

  • mjr007 says:

    I’ve wondered for a long time whether Paki will allow for US boots on the ground. Seems that has always been a geopolitical hot potato Musharaf does not want to endure at any cost.
    However, given that the Taliban and AQ are overrunning Paki defense forces it would seem he could benefit politically by alligning (yet again) with the US by allowing a small presence in the frontier provinces.
    Might any of the 3,200 marines requested eventually be crossing over the border into Pakistan?

  • DMO says:

    Attention to Orders! -click-
    The Department of Defense is pleased to bestow upon Abu Laith al-Libi (Camel Urine Unto him) the Silver PGM, with Anti-Personnel Clusters.
    -golf-clap-
    Fall out for chow!

  • Everybody raise a glass …

    I raise my glass to toast our “Civilians In Action” as they traipse right on up the escalation chain. Read the original article below or The Long War Journal’s acccount and anaylsis here.
    U.S. missile strike in Pakistan hit al Qaeda …

  • JusCruzn says:

    It’s a crying shame that we didn’t get more of them. Given that the majority of the captures/deaths of Al Qaeda have been in Pakistan does anybody still have any questions about Al Qaeda being there? You know Osama and Ayman and company are there hiding under a rock somewhere. The time to pay the piper is coming soon ragheads! Osama has been quoted as saying the big difference between the terrorist and the US is the the terrorists like death while the US likes life. If that were true about the terrorists then why do they always run like hell when the battle gets too intense. Bin Laden has been doing this for years. He got his start running from the Soviets in 87 in Jaji, and showed the world how well he could still run at Tora Bora in 01. Keep killing them every chance you get.

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