Missile strike kills 20 in South Waziristan

Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the tribal areas and the NWFP. Click to view.

A devastating explosion destroyed the fortress-like home of a tribal elder in South Waziristan on Sunday, killing up to 20 people and leaving five others injured today, state-run Pakistan Television announced. Foreign fighters and Taliban insurgents are believed to be among the dead. One of three missiles fired from an “unidentified location,” with several local tribesmen believing they were fired from Afghanistan, is responsible for the massive explosion, according to witnesses who spoke to The Associated Press of Pakistan. Other residents reported seeing a drone circling the village shortly before the blasts occurred and added foreigners with links to al Qaeda have lived in the area for some time.

The blast obliterated the fortified compound owned by Pakistani tribal elder, Noorullah Wazir, who lived in the village of Dhook Pir Bagh some five kilometers from Wana, the headquarters of South Waziristan. Pakistani Taliban have cordoned off the area and began excavating bodies from the rubble, AFP reported.

Another nearby house, which Uzbek and Arab fighters recently stayed at, was also destroyed in a separate round of missile fire, Pakistani officials told The Associated Press. The second house was owned by Safraz Khan, a tribesman sympathetic to the Taliban. Eight to 10 fighters were killed in this attack.

It is not immediately clear who launched the attack, but Pakistan has confirmed reports that missiles were fired in this incident. NATO forces in Afghanistan have launched both covert and overt strikes against targets in Pakistan in the past. The most recent strike came on March, 12 when US forces responding to an imminent threat by the Haqqani network, a Taliban-linked terrorist group, launched a coordinated attack using “precision munitions” against a compound one and a half kilometers inside Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal agency.

The attack is believed to have killed three senior Haqqani network commanders and “many” Chechen fighters, according to US military officials who spoke to The Long War Journal in Afghanistan. Local Pakistani officials claim two women and two children died in the attack, but refused to comment if insurgents were also among the dead. Detailed US surveillance of the area before the attack indicated no women or children were present in or near the compound up to five days before the attack.

Late last month, another missile strike killed several foreign fighters at a compound in Azam Warzak, South Waziristan. The building was owned by local tribal elder Shero Wazir, a follower of Pakistani Taliban commander Maulvi Nazir. Both men maintain strong relations with Arab al Qaeda members in South Waziristan. The attack destroyed Shero’s house, which he rented to Arabs, and killed anywhere from eight to 13 al Qaeda and Taliban, including an unnamed “Arab fugitive.”

Predating that attack, a targeted strike in North Waziristan killed Abu Laith al Libi, a top al Qaeda commander and leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, along with several of his Arab associates.

See additional coverage: Unprecedented Coalition strike nails the Haqqani Network in North Waziristan and Senior al Qaeda leader Abu Laith al Libi killed in North Waziristan

Matt Dupee :