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Report: Strike targets Baitullah Mehsud’s hideout in Pakistan

Baitullah Mehsud from a recent Taliban video.

The US military may have targeted Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud Several in an airstrike on June 14, according to several reports from Pakistan.

Baitullah’s hideout in the town of Makeen in South Waziristan was hit with three missiles, according to Geo TV and the Daily Times. Only one person was confirmed killed in the strike. Baitullah is not believed to have been killed.

Baitullah, the leader of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, or the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, sheltered in a safe house in Makeen run by Anwar Shah at the end of December 2008 after claiming credit for former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s assassination.

On week ago, 18 Taliban fighters from Makeen were killed during a major engagement in Paktika province, Afghanistan, as they attempted to cross the border.

US strikes inside Pakistan

If confirmed, the Makeen strike would be the fifth such targeted attack inside Pakistan this year. On June 10, the US military attacked Taliban fighters as they crossed the border, killing eight and sparking outrage from the Pakistani government. Two senior al Qaeda operatives were killed in the prior attacks.

Abu Laith al Libi was killed in a US strike inside the North Waziristan tribal agency in Pakistan in late January. Al Libi was the leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and served as a chief spokesman for al Qaeda. Laith also commanded al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan.

Abu Sulayman Jazairi, a senior Algerian operative for al Qaeda’s central organization, along with 13 associates, was killed in an airstrike against a Taliban and al Qaeda safe house in the town of Damadola in Pakistan’s Bajaur tribal agency on May 14. Jazairi is described as a senior trainer, an explosives expert, and an operational commander tasked with planning attacks on the West.

Jazairi is thought to have succeeded Abu Ubaidah al Masri, a senior al Qaeda operative who served as the former operations chief in Kunar, Afghanistan, before becoming al Qaeda operations chief for global strikes. Ubaidah took over for Abd al Hadi al Iraqi, a senior deputy for Osama bin Laden who was personally chosen by bin Laden to monitor al Qaeda operations inside Iraq. Hadi was captured by US forces as he attempted to enter Iraq in late 2006. Ubaidah is believed to have died from complications from an illness.

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.

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.

Prior to the January strike that killed al Libi, the last US attack inside Pakistan 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.

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