Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the tribal areas. Map from PBS’ Frontline. Click to view.
The US military appears to have conducted yet another strike against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Pakistan’s lawless tribal regions. Reports from Pakistan indicate a missile strike targeted a terrorist safe house near the town of Damadola, killing between seven and 14 Taliban.
Maulvi Omar, the spokesman for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, said four Taliban and three children were killed in the strike, and six were wounded. An unidentified Pakistani security official said 14 were killed in the strike, including “foreigners.”
The home of Taliban commander Maulvi Obaidullah was targeted, according to PTI. It is unclear if this Taliban commander is actually Mullah Obaidullah Akhund, the Afghan Taliban leader who served as Defense Minister and currently sits on the Taliban’s Shura Majlis, or senior executive council. Mullah Obaidullah was reported to have been detained in Quetta while he was fundraising for operations in Afghanistan.
Multimedia presentation of the senior Taliban commanders in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Click to view.
The mode of the attack is not yet known. An unnamed Pakistani security official told Reuters that “One or two missiles were fired from a drone,” but “we don’t have any details.” The US military used precision-guided, ground-launched rockets in an attack on a Taliban compound in North Waziristan earlier this year.
Bajaur agency is a hotbed for the Taliban and al Qaeda. The area is al Qaeda’s command and control hub for operations in northeastern Afghanistan. The US struck in Damadola in the past. In January 2006, a strike targeted but missed a meeting that was thought to have been attended by Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s second in command. The Tehrik Nifaz-e-Shariah Mohammadi (TNSM, or the Movement for the Implementation of Mohammad’s Sharia Law) controls Bajaur. The Pakistani government recently signed a peace accord with the TNSM and freed Sufi Mohammed, its ideological leader.
Today’s strike in Damadola is the fourth such attack inside Pakistani territory this year, and the first such attack since the new Pakistani government was elected.
On March 16, US forces struck at the fortified compound owned by Noorullah Wazir, a Pakistani tribal elder who lived in the village of Dhook Pir Bagh some five kilometers from Wana, the headquarters of South Waziristan. Another nearby house, where Uzbek and Arab fighters recently stayed, was also destroyed in a separate round of missile fire.
On March 12, the US military fired guided missiles from Afghanistan into a compound run by Siraj Haqqani, the wanted Taliban leader behind numerous attacks in Afghanistan. The attack is believed to have killed three senior Haqqani network commanders and “many” Chechen fighters.
The most successful strike occurred in the end of January, when US forces targeted an al Qaeda safe house and training camp in town of Khushali Tari Khel near Mir Ali, North Waziristan, right on the Pakistan-Afghan frontier. A missile strike killed Abu Laith al Libi, a senior al Qaeda commander in Afghanistan. Adam Gadahn, the American al Qaeda leader wanted for treason, was rumored to have been killed in the same attack, but this was never confirmed. An Egyptian al Qaeda leader was also thought to have been killed in the attack which sparked rumor that Zawahiri was killed, but no Egyptian commander was identified. Zawahiri and Mustafa Abu Yazid, al Qaeda’s commander in Afghanistan, later vowed to avenge the death of al Libi.
Prior to the January strike that killed al Libi, the last attack occurred in Mir Ali in North Waziristan on December 28, the day after Benazir Bhutto’s assassination. The US military targeted the home of Sheikh Essa, an Egyptian cleric responsible for pushing the Taliban to overthrow the Pakistani government. Essa was said to have been wounded in the attack.
In August 2007, when Pakistani forces hit two Taliban and al Qaeda bases in the village of Daygan, North Waziristan. Camps and bases in Damadola, Danda Saidgai, Chingai, Zamazola, again in Danda Saidgai, and Mami Rogha were hit over the course of 2006 and 2007.
These strikes have done little to disrupt the growth of al Qaeda and the Taliban in northwestern Pakistan. The Taliban and al Qaeda maintain 29 terror camps in North and South Waziristan alone.