The US targeted another al Qaeda safe house in South Waziristan on Aug. 30, according to reports from Pakistan.
At least five al Qaeda operatives were reported killed in the attack, which appears to have been launched by unmanned Predator aircraft hovering over the area. “Two Canadians of Arab origin” were among those killed. Two Punjabis were reported wounded.
The strike was targeted at the home of Noor Khan Wazir in the Korzai region near Wana. The home was recently rented to “foreigners.”
The region is controlled by Mullah Nazir, a rival of Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud. Nazir is often described as a “pro-government” Taliban leader as he does not advocate overthrowing the Pakistani government and ejected Uzbeks from the al Qaeda-allied Islamic Jihad Union from the Wana region in 2007.
But Nazir openly supports al Qaeda and its leadership and admitted he would provide shelter to senior al Qaeda leaders. “How can I say no to any request from Osama bin Laden or Mullah Omar under tribal traditions, if they approach me to get shelter?” Nazir asked the Pakistani press in the spring of 2007.
Arab al Qaeda operatives help finance Nazir’s operations. He also openly supports the continuation of the jihad in Afghanistan and vowed to provide fighters to support the Taliban.
US steps up attacks on al Qaeda’s havens in Pakistan’s tribal areas
The US has dramatically increased the attack tempo against Taliban and al Qaeda safe havens in Pakistan. Ten camps and safe houses have been confirmed as US military targets in 2006 and 2007. The Wana attack is the eighth confirmed US strike on al Qaeda and Taliban safe houses and camps in Pakistan this year.
Three of the attacks took place in South Waziristan, three in North Waziristan, and two in Bajaur. Prior to yesterday’s airstrike, the last attack occurred against an al Qaeda safe house near Wana on Aug. 20.
Three senior al Qaeda commanders have been killed in this year’s strikes.
The US military killed Abu Khabab al Masri during a targeted strike on an al Qaeda safe house in the village of Zeralita in the Azam Warsak region of South Waziristan on July 28. Khabab was al Qaeda’s chief bomb maker and headed its chemical and biological weapons programs.
On May 14, a US airstrike killed Abu Sulayman Jazairi along with 13 associates, in an attack against a Taliban and al Qaeda safe house in the town of Damadola in Pakistan’s Bajaur tribal agency. Jazairi was a senior Algerian operative for al Qaeda’s central organization who directed the group’s external operations. He is described as a senior trainer, an explosives expert, and an operational commander tasked with planning attacks on the West.
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. Al Libi also commanded al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan.
Pakistani sources have put out false reports of the death of three senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders this summer. Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s second in command, was rumored to have been killed in the South Waziristan strike that killed Khabab. Zawahiri appeared on a videotape a week later urging Pakistanis to fight the government.
The Pakistani military speculated that Faqir Mohammed, the Taliban emir, or leader in Bajaur and the deputy leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, was killed during fighting against Pakistani forces in the tribal agency on Aug. 15. Faqir later spoke to a Pakistani television station.
Mustafa Abu Yazid, al Qaeda’s commander in Afghanistan, was also reported killed during the heavy fighting in Bajaur last week. Al Qaeda never confirmed Yazid’s death, and the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies never presented evidence he was killed. Yazid is featured in a new al Qaeda propaganda tape.
While the strikes have disrupted al Qaeda’s senior leadership, they have done little to disrupt the growth of al Qaeda and the Taliban in northwestern Pakistan.
The Taliban, al Qaeda, and allied terrorist groups have established 157 training camps and more than 400 support locations in the tribal areas and the Northwest Frontier Province, US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal.