Senior al Qaeda leader targeted in airstrike in Bannu, Pakistan

This morning’s airstrike in Pakistan’s Bannu region targeted a senior al Qaeda leader with close ties to Osama bin Laden, sources told The Long War Journal.

The early morning Predator strike is thought to have killed Abdullah Azzam al Saudi, a senior al Qaeda leader operating in Pakistan’s tribal areas and the Northwest Frontier Province.

Azzam, a Saudi national, serves as a liaison between al Qaeda and the Taliban operating in Pakistan’s northwest, intelligence officials said. Azzam facilitates al Qaeda’s external operations network that is tasked with striking against the West. He has also served as a recruiter and trainer for al Qaeda.

Pakistani intelligence officials reported Azzam was killed along with four other al Qaeda and Taliban operatives after Hellfire missiles launched from Predator or Reaper unmanned aircraft slammed into the home of Sakhi Mohammad in the Bannu Frontier Region.

US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal would not confirm or deny Azzam’s death. “It is far too soon to know, and northwestern Pakistan isn’t the easiest place in the world to find out if these strikes succeed or fail,” one senior official said. “We’ve had far too many false positives this year to be certain this hit was successful.”

The strike in Bannu is the first recorded US attack outside of Pakistan’s seven Taliban-controlled tribal agencies, and appears to be the deepest US strike inside Pakistani territory to date. In the past three years, the US has concentrated its attacks in Bajaur and in North and South Waziristan, which border Bannu to the west.

There have been 30 recorded cross-border attacks and attempts in Pakistan this year, according to numbers compiled by The Long War Journal. Twenty-three of these attacks have occurred since Aug. 31. There were only 10 strikes during 2006 and 2007 combined.

The US strikes inside Pakistan’s tribal areas have killed five senior al Qaeda leaders this year.

For more information on today’s strike and background on recent strikes this year, see US Predator strikes al Qaeda & Taliban outside of Pakistan’s tribal areas.

US attacks inside Pakistan and incidents along the border in 2008:

US Predator strikes al Qaeda & Taliban outside of Pakistan’s tribal areas

Nov. 19, 2008

US targets compound in North Waziristan

Nov. 14, 2008

US Predators strike al Qaeda camp in North Waziristan

Nov. 7, 2008

US Predators strike again in Waziristan

Oct. 31, 2008

US strikes kill al Qaeda operatives in North & South Waziristan

Oct. 31, 2008

US targets Taliban “facility” in South Waziristan

Oct. 26, 2008

US hits Haqqani Network in North Waziristan

Oct. 22, 2008

US strike in Baitullah Mehsud’s territory kills 6

Oct. 16, 2008

US targets safe house in North Waziristan

Oct. 11, 2008

US strike kills 9 al Qaeda and Taliban in North Waziristan

Oct. 9, 2008

US conducts two strikes in North Waziristan

Oct. 3, 2008

Taliban: Baitullah Mehsud alive; US strike in North Waziristan

Oct. 1, 2008

Pakistan military fires on ISAF forces

Sept. 25, 2008

Pakistani military fires on US helicopters at border

Sept. 22, 2008

US strikes Taliban camp in South Waziristan

Sept. 17, 2008

Report: US helicopters fired on while crossing Pakistani border

Sept. 15, 2008

US hits compound in North Waziristan

Sept. 12, 2008

US targets Haqqani Network in North Waziristan

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

Pakistanis claim US helicopter-borne forces assaulted village in South Waziristan

Sept. 3, 2008

US hits al Qaeda safe house in North Waziristan

Aug. 31, 2008

Five killed in al Qaeda safe house strike in South Waziristan

Aug. 31, 2008

Al Qaeda safe house targeted in South Waziristan strike

Aug. 20, 2008

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

Aug. 13, 2008

Six killed in strike in South Waziristan

July 28, 2008

Report: Strike targets Baitullah Mehsud’s hideout in Pakistan

June 14, 2008

Senior Algerian al Qaeda operative killed in May 14 strike inside Pakistan

May 24, 2008

Missile strike kills 20 in South Waziristan

March 16, 2008

Unprecedented Coalition strike nails the Haqqani Network in North Waziristan

March 13, 2008

Missile strike on al Qaeda meeting in South Waziristan kills 13

Feb. 28, 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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