Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the tribal areas. Map from PBS’ Frontline. Click to view.
The Taliban denied that its commander in Pakistan died of natural causes. Baituallah Mehsud, the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and warlord in South Waziristan, was reported to have died yesterday of complications related to diabetes.
The Taliban “media felt annoyed by some media reports about death of Baitullah Mehsud,” Geo TV reported. Instead, the news agency said Baitullah “offered Eid prayers in some undisclosed area of Waziristan.”
Sources told The Long War Journal yesterday that the reports were false and designed to spread misinformation. The Taliban spokesman said the reports were false. “Some elements were spreading false news on instructions of agencies,” Geo TV paraphased the Taliban spokesman as saying, indicating that Pakistani intelligence was spreading misinformation.
Baitullah is reported to be ill, however. “He is a diabetic under treatment and he soon will be alright,” said Taliban commander Rahim Burki.
Taliban leaders are rumored to be vying to succeed Baitullah in case he does die. Qari Hussain, a senior lieutenant to Baitullah, is said to be lobbying for the position. Qari ran a suicide camp in Spinkai in South Waziristan, where children were trained to conduct attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Pakistani military destroyed the camp in an operation in January.
Latest US strike in North Waziristan
After a week-long lull, the US conducted another airstrike in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The latest attack occurred near Mirali in the Taliban stronghold of North Waziristan. Between four to six Taliban and foreign fighters were reported killed and nine were wounded.
The attack occurred in the village of Khusali Toorikhel after several Taliban fighters fired at circling Predator unmanned aerial vehicles. “After the drones came under fire a missile hit a house in the village. We have four dead now and another nine people were injured,” Geo TV reported.
The village is “a known haunt of Taliban and al Qaeda militants,” the news agency stated.
Mirali is a known stronghold of al Qaeda leader Abu Kasha. He has close links to both al Qaeda and the Taliban, a senior US intelligence official told The Long War Journal in January 2007.
Abu Kasha is an Iraqi and serves as the key link between al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis (main Shura or consultive body) and the Taliban. He has two local commanders, Imanullah and Haq Nawaz Dawar, who both administer local offices in Mirali. Kasha also has a working relationship and close communication with Uzbek terror groups in the region.
The US has stepped up attacks in Pakistan’s tribal areas this year after the Taliban and al Qaeda consolidated control in the tribal regions and settled districts of the Northwest Frontier Province. There have been 10 recorded cross-border strikes since Aug. 31. There have been 20 recorded cross-border attacks and attempts in Pakistan in 2008, compared to 10 strikes during 2006 and 2007 combined. The last attack occurred on Sept. 17.
Three senior al Qaeda leaders have been killed in the attacks. The Haqqani Network, the powerful al Qaeda and Taliban-linked group run by Jalaluddin and Siraj Haqqani, has been heavily targeted as well. These attacks are designed to interdict al Qaeda’s ability to conduct attacks against the West as well as degrade the Taliban’s support network being used against NATO forces in Afghanistan.
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 Pakistani military said it had direct orders to “open fire” on any US forces attempting to violate Pakistan’s borders. The military has fired on US helicopters along the border at least three times in September.
US attacks inside Pakistan and incidents along the border in 2008:
Oct. 1, 2008
Sept. 25, 2008
Sept. 22, 2008
Sept. 17, 2008
Sept. 15, 2008
Sept. 12, 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
June 14, 2008
May 24, 2008
March 16, 2008
March 13, 2008
Feb. 28, 2008
Jan. 31, 2008