Haqqanis attack Pakistani forces in North Waziristan

The Haqqani Network responded to yesterday’s airstrike on the family’s religious seminary by striking at Pakistani security forces in North Waziristan. The attacks occurred as news that al Qaeda’s commander in Pakistan and 14 other operatives were killed in the strike on the Haqqani family.

Taliban fighters under the command of the Haqqani family attacked military bases in Miramshah, the administrative seat of North Waziristan, and Mir Ali, Geo TV reported. Several Taliban units, estimated at between 75 and 150 fighters, conducted the strikes, a US intelligence official told The Long War Journal on the condition of anonymity.

Heavy fighting has been reported after Pakistani forces repelled the attacks. Casualty reports for either side are not available, and the fighting is said to be ongoing.

The Haqqanis are bound by the Pashtun tribal codes to avenge yesterday’s airstrike against the Manba Ulom madrassa. Two wives of Jaluluddin Haqqani, along with his elder sister and a sister-in-law, were among those killed, spokesman Maulvi Muhammad Khan told Pajhwok Afghan News. Another 15 relatives, including Badruddin and Qari Yahya, Jalaluddin’s sons, were wounded.

Ahmedullah Ahemdi, a spokesman for the Haqqani family, warned the network would take revenge for yesterday’s missile strike.

The Haqqanis chose to strike at the Pakistani military, even though the US carried out the bombing of the madrassa.

The attack against the Pakistani military is “a symbolic reprisal” for yesterday’s attack, the intelligence source stated, while the Haqqanis “prepare a more substantive response,” likely against US forces in eastern Afghanistan.

Al Qaeda’s Pakistan commander killed?

Fifteen al Qaeda operatives, including a senior leader, and six Afghan and Pakistani Taliban are said to have been killed in the attack. Two independent sources — a Taliban fighter guarding the madrassa and a Haqqani spokesman — provided the identity of five of the operatives killed. One is reported to be al Qaeda’s commander in Pakistan.

The five al Qaeda operatives who were identified are Abu Haris; Ali Abdullah al Jazairi, a Saudi; Abu Hamza, another Saudi; Zain Ul Abu Qasim, an Egyptian; and Abu Walid. Haris has been identified as the newly minted al Qaeda commander in Pakistan. The others’ roles in the organization have not been reported.

The US intelligence source, who is familiar with al Qaeda’s command structure in South Asia, said Abu Haris is actually Abu Firas al Masri. Firas, an Egyptian, is said to have recently taken over as al Qaeda’s leader in Pakistan. The US has not confirmed the death of Firas.

Firas and the other al Qaeda operatives were not the primary target of the attack, the source stated. They happened to be present at the mosque when it was hit. The attack was designed to send a message to the Haqqani Network, sources told The Long War Journal.

If Faris’ death is confirmed, he would be the second senior al Qaeda leader killed in North Waziristan this year. The US killed Abu Laith al Libi, during an airstrike in late January. Laith was a senior al Qaeda leader in Afghanistan as well as the leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.

The Haqqani family used the Manba Ulom madrassa as a training center and meeting place for senior al Qaeda leaders after the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. The madrassa also serves as the headquarters for the Haqqani Network. It has been described as “a center of jihadi activities.” The Pakistani government closed the madrassa down in 2002, but it was reopened in 2004.

Siraj_Haqqani-1.jpg

Click to view slide show of the Haqqani network. Pictured is a composite image of Siraj Haqqani.

Targeting the Haqqani Network

The US has upped the attacks against the Haqqani Network in both Pakistan and Afghanistan during the past week. Of the seven airstrikes inside Pakistan since Aug. 31, five have hit Haqqani-run compounds in North Waziristan.

Across the border in Afghanistan, US forces killed 10 operatives and captured nine more during four operations in Khost province since Sept. 5. US forces killed the Haqqani cell leader “wanted for conducting and coordinating direct and suicide attacks in Sabari District.” The Haqqani Network was behind the deadly suicide attack against the Sabari district headquarters in Khost in March, which destroyed the building and killed two US soldier in a guard tower.

The US military killed three senior commanders in the Haqqani network and numerous mid-level commanders since October 2007. Mohammad Omar Haqqani, Jalaluddin’s youngest son, was killed during a US offensive in Khost and Paktia provinces in Afghanistan in July 2008.

Siraj Haqqani, the son of family patriarch Jalaluddin, has risen in prominence over the past year. He is believed to be the mastermind of the most deadly attacks as well as the senior military commander in eastern Afghanistan. The US military has described Siraj as the primary threat to security in eastern Afghanistan. A $200,000 reward has been issued for the capture of Siraj and 11 other senior and mid-level Taliban, al Qaeda, and other allied commanders.

Siraj is believed to be dangerous not only for his connections with the Afghan Taliban, but also with al Qaeda’s central leadership, which extends all the way to Osama bin Laden.

For more information on the Haqqani family and Manba Ulom madrassa, see:

Haqqani’s main madrassa hit in North Waziristan attack,

Sept. 9, 2008

The Haqqani Network: Reign of terror,

Aug. 2, 2008

In Pictures: The Haqqani Network,

Aug. 2, 2008

Targeting Taliban commander Siraj Haqqani,

Oct. 20, 2007

For more information on US attacks against the Haqqani Network in 2008, see:

US targets Haqqani Network in North Waziristan and Haqqani’s main madrassa hit in North Waziristan attack,

Sept. 8, 2008

US airstrike killed five al Qaeda operatives in North Waziristan,

Sept. 5, 2008

Report: US airstrike kills four in North Waziristan,

Sept. 4, 2008

US hits al Qaeda safe house in North Waziristan,

Aug. 31, 2008

Cross-border strike targets one of the Taliban’s 157 training camps in Pakistan’s northwest,

Aug. 13, 2008

Unprecedented Coalition strike nails the Haqqani Network in North Waziristan,

March 13, 2008

Senior al Qaeda leader Abu Laith al Libi killed in North Waziristan,

Jan. 31, 2008

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

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2 Comments

  • ST333 says:

    Great news….
    Bill, can we assume the US has a contingency plan to get supplies into Afghanistan if the Taliban and AQ decide to attack our main supply route through Pakistan? I find it surprising that they haven’t focused on it already. The last two weeks we’ve shown a willingness to strike their ‘safe havens’ and take out some of their leadership. Seems to me if they wanted to squeeze us and slow our attacks down, they’d concentrate on diminishing our supplies.

  • David M says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 09/10/2008 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

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