The US has conducted another attack inside Pakistan’s tribal areas. More than 20 people, including nine Arab al Qaeda fighters, have been reported killed after the US fired multiple missiles at a home and madrassa, or religious school, owned by the Haqqani family in a village in North Waziristan. Today’s attack inside Pakistan is the seventh reported strike in nine days, and the fourteenth such attack this year.
Pakistani sources said a swarm of Predator unmanned aircraft fired 10 missiles at a Haqqani compound in the village of Danday Darpakhel near Miranshah. Siraj Haqqani, the son of the notorious Taliban commander Jalaluddin Haqqani, is said to have run the madrassa.
Afghan and Pakistani Taliban fighters, along with some women and children, were reported killed in the strike, Pakistani sources told Reuters. Nine “foreigners” described as Arab al Qaeda members and six Taliban fighters were among those killed, AFP reported. An Arab by the name of Hamza was reportedly among those killed.
But Siraj and Jalaluddin were not present at the time of the attack, according to Badruddin Haqqani, Jalaluddin’s son. “[Jalaluddin] Haqqani and Sirajuddin were in Afghanistan at the time of the attack,” Badruddin told Reuters. “They are alive.”
The Haqqanis are closely allied with the Taliban and al Qaeda, and have close links with the Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s military intelligence agency. The Haqqanis run a parallel government in North Waziristan and conduct military and suicide operations in eastern Afghanistan. Siraj has close ties to Osama bin Laden and is one of the most wanted terrorists in Afghanistan.
The Haqqani family runs several mosques and madrassas inside of North Waziristan. The Pakistani government closed down the Haqqani-run Manba Ulom madrassa in Miramshah after the US commenced Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, but it was reopened in 2004. Syed Saleem Shahzad, who interviewed Siraj in 2004, described the Manba Ulom madrassa as “a center of jihadi activities, and where top Taliban and al-Qaeda commanders meet.”
The US has targeted Haqqani compounds multiple times this year, including an announced strike on March 12. The US military fired long-range rockets from a base in Afghanistan at a compound run by Siraj. Three high-level Haqqani network commanders and several Chechens were reported killed.
US aircraft activity has increased in the skies of North Waziristan. Taliban fighters fired on Predators circling in North Waziristan on Sept. 7. No aircraft were reported hit.
Cross-border strikes increase during 2008 and have skyrocketed the past two weeks
The US has stepped up its attacks against al Qaeda and the Taliban’s networks inside Pakistan over the past year. There have been 14 confirmed cross-border attacks by the US in Pakistan this year [see list below]. Six safe houses have been hit in North Waziristan, six have been hit in South Waziristan, and two have been targeted in Bajaur this year. Only 10 such cross-border strikes were recorded in 2006 and 2007 combined.
The attack tempo has intensified over the past week. The US has conducted five cross-border attacks inside Pakistan since Aug. 31. Three of the strikes occurred in North Waziristan and two in South Waziristan.
On Aug. 31, US forces conducted two attacks. Five al Qaeda and Taliban fighters, including two Canadians of Arab origin, were killed in an airstrike near Miramshah in South Waziristan. That same day, a strike on a Taliban safe house in North Waziristan killed six. Another attack on a home known to shelter al Qaeda operatives in North Waziristan on Sept. 4 killed four.
The most controversial strike involved special operation teams inserted by helicopters in a village in South Waziristan just one mile from the Afghan border on Sept. 3. This is the second recorded incident of the direct involvement of US ground troops in a raid inside Pakistan since 2006.
Pakistan retaliated for the increased attacks by closing the vital Torkham border crossing point in the Khyber tribal agency on Sept. 6. An estimated 70 percent of NATO’s supplies move through the Torkham crossing point. Pakistan reopened the crossing on Sept. 7.
Background on this year’s attacks
Three senior al Qaeda operatives have been confirmed killed during this year’s cross-border strikes in Pakistan.
Abu Khabab al Masri, al Qaeda’s bomb expert and weapons of mass destruction chief, was killed South Waziristan on July 28. Abu Sulayman Jazairi, al Qaeda’s external operations chief, was killed in Bajaur on May 14. Abu Laith al Libi, a senior commander in Afghanistan and the leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, was killed in North Waziristan on Jan. 28.
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.
The Taliban has organized some of its fighters into military formations. Al Qaeda has reformed the notorious 055 Brigade, the Arab legion of al Qaeda fighters that was destroyed during the initial US assault in Afghanistan in late 2001. Additional al Qaeda brigades have been formed, intelligence officials informed The Long War Journal.
Foreign al Qaeda fighters have flocked to the Pakistani border regions. On July 23, Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani and his cabinet were told that more than 8,000 foreign fighters were operating in the tribal areas.
US attacks inside Pakistan in 2008:
Sept. 8, 2008
Sept. 5, 2008
Sept. 4, 2008
Sept. 3, 2008
Aug. 31, 2008
Aug. 31, 2008
Aug. 20, 2008
Aug. 13, 2008
July 28, 2008
May 24, 2008
March 16, 2008
March 13, 2008
Feb. 28, 2008
Jan. 31, 2008
For more information on the Haqqani family, see:
• The Haqqani Network: Reign of terror, Aug. 2, 2008
• Targeting Taliban commander Siraj Haqqani, Oct. 20, 2007