US Predators killed eight terrorists, including “foreigners,” in an attack on a Taliban convoy in South Waziristan.
The attack took place in Makeen, the hometown of Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, or the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan.
“Two missiles struck two vehicles carrying militants and from information we have received, some guests were among the dead,” a Pakistani intelligence official told Reuters, who did not specify the identity or the nationality of those killed. Geo News reported eight were killed, including “foreigners,” a term commonly used to describe al Qaeda operatives.
Today’s strike is the sixth recorded attack against camps and compounds in Baitullah’s tribal areas. The last attack in Baitullah’s territory took place on March 1. Eight terrorists, including Arabs and Uzbeks, were reported killed in the March 1 attack.
Although The New York Times reported that a Predator strike on Feb. 14 was the first such attack against Baitullah Mehsud and signaled an expansion of the air war, the report is incorrect. There were three US strikes in Baitullah’s tribal areas between July 2008 and January 2009.
In mid-June 2008, a strike hit a Taliban safe house in Baitullah’s hometown of Makeen. In mid-October 2008 , a Predator strike took place in the village of Saam in the Ladha region. And on Jan. 2, 2009, another strike took place in Madin, also in the Ladha region.
Today’s strike is the tenth inside Pakistan this year and the first since March 15, when US Predators conducted an attack in Bannu, a frontier region outside of Pakistan’s tribal areas. Bannu borders the Taliban-controlled North and South Waziristan tribal areas to the east.
Background on US strikes against al Qaeda and Taliban networks in northwestern Pakistan
Click map for full view. Taliban presence, by district and tribal agency, in the Northwest Frontier Province and the Federally Administered Tribal Agencies. Information on Taliban presence obtained from open source and derived by The Long War Journal based on the presence of Taliban shadow governments, levels of fighting, and reports from the region. Map created by Bill Raymond for The Long War Journal.
US intelligence believes al Qaeda has reconstituted its external operations network in Pakistan’s lawless, Taliban-controlled tribal areas. This network is tasked with hitting targets in the West, India, and elsewhere. The US has struck at these external cells using unmanned Predator aircraft and other means in an effort to disrupt al Qaeda’s external network and decapitate the leadership. The US has also targeted al Qaeda-linked Taliban fighters operating in Afghanistan, particularly the notorious Haqqani Network.
As of last summer, al Qaeda and the Taliban operated 157 known training camps. Al Qaeda has been training terrorists holding Western passports to conduct attacks, US intelligence officials have told The Long War Journal. Some of the camps are devoted to training the Taliban’s military arm; some train suicide bombers for attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan; some focus on training the various Kashmiri terror groups; some train al Qaeda operatives for attacks in the West; some train the Lashkar al Zil, al Qaeda’s Shadow Army; and one serves as a training ground for the Black Guard, the elite bodyguard for Osama bin Laden, Ayman al Zawahiri, and other senior al Qaeda leaders.
There were 36 recorded cross-border attacks and attempts in Pakistan during 2008, according to numbers compiled by The Long War Journal. Twenty-nine of those attacks took place after Aug. 31. There were only 10 recorded strikes in 2006 and 2007 combined.
During 2008, the US strikes inside Pakistan’s tribal areas killed five senior al Qaeda leaders. All of the leaders were involved in supporting al Qaeda’s external operations directed at the West.
Abu Laith al Libi, a senior military commander in Afghanistan, was killed in a strike in North Waziristan in January 2008.
Abu Sulayman Jazairi, al Qaeda’s external operations chief, was killed in a strike in Bajaur in March 2008.
Abu Khabab al Masri, al Qaeda’s weapons of mass destruction chief, and several senior members of his staff were killed in a strike in South Waziristan in July 2008.
Khalid Habib, the leader of al Qaeda’s paramilitary Shadow Army, was killed in a region controlled by Baitullah Mehsud in South Waziristan in October 2008.
Abu Jihad al Masri, the leader of the Egyptian Islamic Group and member of al Qaeda’s top council, was also killed in North Waziristan in October 2008.
In 2009, US strikes have killed two senior, long-time al Qaeda leaders. Osama al Kini and his senior aide, Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan, were killed in a New Year’s Day strike in South Waziristan. Kini was al Qaeda operations chief in Pakistan. Both men were behind the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya, which killed 224 civilians and wounded more than 5,000 others.
US attacks inside Pakistan during 2009:
March 25, 2009
March 15, 2009
March 12, 2009
March 1, 2009
Feb. 16, 2009
Feb. 14, 2009
Jan. 23, 2009
Jan. 2, 2009
Jan. 1, 2009
For a summary of US strikes inside Pakistan in 2008, see US strikes in 2 villages in South Waziristan.
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