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Six killed in strike in South Waziristan

Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the tribal areas. Map from PBS’ Frontline. Click to view.

Three foreign terrorists are among six killed in a targeted strike in Pakistan’s lawless tribal agency of South Waziristan. The strike in Pakistan marks the sixth targeted attack against al Qaeda and Taliban operatives inside Pakistan this year.

“Six people are dead and three others injured after three missile hit a house in Azam Warsak,” an unnamed Pakistani intelligence official told AFP. “The dead included three suspected foreign militants and three young boys.” The identity of the foreign fighters has not been released.

The strike occurred in the village of Zeralita in the Azam Warsak region of South Waziristan, according to Geo TV. Initial reports indicate that either a madrassa, or religious school, or a home adjacent to a mosque was targeted.

The Taliban and al Qaeda run terror camps and safe houses from madrassa and mosques throughout northwestern Pakistan. The Taliban has also trained children to serve as fighters and suicide bombers. Several children have conducted suicide attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Geo TV reported a madrassa run by Maulana Jalil Wazir was the target of the attack, while AFP stated the home of Malik Salat was hit. Salat is known to shelter “pro-Taliban militants.”

Locals reported that unmanned aircraft were flying over the region prior to the attack, making it likely that US Predator drones fired Hellfire missiles, or spotted for long-range, guided artillery based in Afghanistan.

US strikes inside Pakistan

The Azam Warsak strike would be the sixth such targeted attack inside Pakistan this year. Two senior al Qaeda leaders were among those killed in the cross-border strikes.

It is believed the US military targeted Baitullah Mehsud in his hometown of Makeen on June 14. Baitullah is the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and has close links to al Qaeda and other Pakistani-based terror groups.

On May 14, 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. 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 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 had 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.

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.

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, 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 more than 100 terror camps in North and South Waziristan alone, and are consolidating their control over the tribal areas and several settled districts in the Northwest Frontier Province.

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