US Predator kills 4 in South Waziristan strike

South Waziristan Taliban leader Mullah Nazir. Click to view.

The US has struck yet again inside Pakistan. The latest attack was aimed at a target in the lawless, Taliban-controlled tribal agency of South Waziristan.

An unmanned Predator strike aircraft fired a Hellfire missile at a vehicle in a bazaar in the town of Gangi Khel near Wana. Four Taliban and al Qaeda operatives are thought to have been killed in the strike and four civilians are said to have been wounded, Geo News reported. No senior Taliban or al Qaeda leaders have been reported killed at this time.

The town of Gangi Khel is located in the tribal areas commanded by Mullah Nazir, a Taliban chieftain and former rival and now ally of Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud. The US targeted Nazir and Tahir Yuldashev, the leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, in a strike near Wana on Nov. 7. Nazir was wounded in the attack. Yuldashev’s status is still unknown, but it is believed he survived the attack.

The US targeted the Taliban in Gangi Khel at least one other time this year. A Jan. 23 Predator attack hit a Taliban compound in the town. Ten al Qaeda and Taliban fighters were reported killed in that attack.

Today’s strike is the third this month and the fourteenth inside Pakistan this year. The US targeted a Haqqani Network compound on April 4 and a Taliban camp in Arakzai on April 1.

The Pakistani government officially protests the Predator strikes but behind the scenes the government allows the attacks and the military passes some intelligence to US intelligence to target Taliban leaders.

Nazir is one of three senior Taliban leaders in new alliance against the West

Nazir joined forces with senior Taliban leaders Hafiz Gul Bahadar and Baitullah Mehsud to form the Council of United Mujahideen. In February of this year, the three leaders swore fealty to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and the overall Taliban leader Mullah Omar, and threatened to strike at the US and other countries.

The three leaders had pamphlets distributed throughout North and South Waziristan to announce the formation of the Council of United Mujahideen. The Taliban leaders have “united according to the wishes of Mujahideen leaders like Mullah Muhammad Omar and Sheikh Osama bin Laden.”

The pamphlets also said the Taliban alliance “supported Mullah Muhammad Omar and Osama bin Laden’s struggle” against the administrations of US President Barack Obama, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

The new alliance further stated it was waging war “in an organized manner'” to “stop the infidels from carrying out acts of barbarism against innocent people” just as Omar and bin Laden were waging war against Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the US.

Nazir has close ties to al Qaeda and maintains safe houses and training camps for the terror group. Abu Khabab al Masri, al Qaeda’s former weapons of mass destruction chief, was killed in a strike in Nazir’s territory last summer.

Nazir recently granted an interview to As Sahab, al Qaeda’s propaganda arm, where he blamed Pakistan for the Predator strikes and threatened to overrun the capital of Islamabad.

“All these attacks that have happened and are still happening are the work of Pakistan,” Nazir said. “The day is not far when Islamabad will be in the hands of the mujahideen.” Last December, Nazir began threatening the Pakistani government if the strikes did not stop.

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 that 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 in the tribal areas and the Northwest Frontier Province. 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:

US Predator kills four in South Waziristan strike

US strikes Haqqani Network in North Waziristan

April 4, 2009

US launches first strike in Arakzai tribal agency

April 1, 2009

Latest US strike targets al Qaeda safe house in North Waziristan

March 26, 2009

US airstrike kills 8 in Baitullah Mehsud’s hometown

March 25, 2009

US launches second strike outside of Pakistan’s tribal areas

March 15, 2009

US missile strike in Kurram agency kills 14

March 12, 2009

US airstrike kills 8 in South Waziristan

March 1, 2009

US airstrike in Pakistan’s Kurram tribal agency kills 30

Feb. 16, 2009

US Predator strike in South Waziristan kills 25

Feb. 14, 2009

US strikes al Qaeda in North and South Waziristan

Jan. 23, 2009

US hits South Waziristan in second strike

Jan. 2, 2009

US kills 4 al Qaeda operatives in South Waziristan strike

Jan. 1, 2009

For a summary of US strikes inside Pakistan in 2008, see US strikes in 2 villages in South Waziristan.

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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13 Comments

  • C. Jordan says:

    This strike seems to suggest that the Intel came from eyes on the ground.
    Hits like this must have them losing sleep at night.

  • natej740 says:

    Must have been an important target to hit them in a market….

  • Mr T says:

    Ho hum! $58,000 for a hellfire missile along with all the military costs to deploy it to kill 4 low level Taliban. Why do we do this? The Taliban strategy is to bleed us to death economically because it costs us so much to fight them and they run on the cheap.
    They may have already adversly impacted our economy. They will at least take credit for it while stirring up anger in the region over our strikes. If we strike them , we need to strike good targets. It seems we are continually hitting low level targets.
    Is this because the high value targets are tipped by the ISI not to get in the car or are we duped into hitting these cannon fodder targets by the Taliban leadership to suit their propaganda purposes. I suppose it is also plausible that we are hitting the targets that we know have an attack plan for the west therefore setting them back a bit.
    All these strikes but we can’t seem to get a really good hit on Mehsud or Maulauna or Nazir, or a host of other major leaders. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then.
    Somethings not quite right here but of course, Pakistan is bizarro land.

  • juscruzn says:

    GOOD WORK TROOPS!!!

  • Gshock says:

    This might be in reponse to the recent interview by Nazir. Just to tell him ” back down”.

  • Marlin says:

    It seems some Taliban decided to shoot at the UAV. Seems it didn’t work out so well for them.

    ‘The drone was flying very low and as soon as militants in a truck opened fire at it, a missile was fired that hit the vehicle and killed three militants,’ Reuters quoted a resident as saying.
    ‘Drones initially flew over mountains around Gangi Khel, where the Taliban have some positions. There was some ground fire towards one of the drones and they left the area,’ AFP quoted a security official as saying.
    […]
    ‘Drones returned after some time and targeted a vehicle, which was parked near some shops. Three people were killed in the attack. Four others were wounded – they were either shopkeepers or local residents,’ the official said.

    Dawn: Four dead in suspected drone attack in South Waziristan

  • Midnight says:

    It seems to me the obvious is out there and no one wants to say it. It appears that the training will continue regardless of where it happens to occur at, however, not only have we managed to outrage an entire country, we have also served as the perfect engine to cause any potential agents who have already been dispached out to be angered. Again my question is, how contingent is this?
    If the scales of justice were to be tipped how would we do that?

  • Render says:

    We’ve outraged an entire country?
    A country that is providing (intentionally or otherwise) safe haven for those who ordered 9/11?
    WHAT
    EVER,
    R

  • bard207 says:

    Midnight
    not only have we managed to outrage an entire country
    I found some definitions of country:

    state: a politically organized body of people under a single government

    In political geography and international politics, a country is a political division of a geographical entity.
    A nation state, a political entity asserting ultimate authority over a geographical area
    a large territory having a distinctive culture or political system; most often thought of as the territory or an independent state or nation

    * Has space or territory which has internationally recognized boundaries (boundary disputes are OK).

    * Has people who live there on an ongoing basis.

    * Has economic activity and an organized economy. A country regulates foreign and domestic
    trade and issues money.
    * Has the power of social engineering, such as education.

    * Has a transportation system for moving goods and people.

    * Has a government which provides public services and police power.

    * Has sovereignty. No other State should have power over the country’s territory.

    * Has external recognition. A country has been “voted into the club” by other countries.

    If Pakistan wants to be treated like a country, then it needs to act like a country and exercise sovereignty over the land inside its borders. So far, it has resisted doing what needs to be done as a country:
    * Quit making deals with the militants
    * Send in the regular Army to clean up the troubled areas.
    * Shutdown the Madrassahs that lead the youth in the wrong direction.
    There is more to being a country than having the vast majority of the frontline troops idling on the Eastern Border eyeballing the Indian Army.

  • Marlin says:

    It wasn’t small arms fire they aimed at the UAV.

    An anti-aircraft gun mounted on a truck fired towards the aircraft.

    Daily Times: Drone strike kills three Taliban near Wana

  • Minnor says:

    Pak govt. has released around 50 Taliban fighters/commanders of Swat as per peace deal. This must have strengthened them to conquer neighboring district.

  • Must have been very, very, good intelligence to risk taking out a car in the middle of a bazaar. I wonder if we’re trying to “turn” rival factions within Pakistan and Afghanistan against each other? After all, someone gave us this intel on the car. Was it just a cash reward that got us the intel, or was it some other tribe settling an old score with the people who happened to be in the car? Either way, it was a win for us. But I am curious to know if we are cultivating specific tribes to support us against the Taliban and al Qaeda (just like we cultivated the Montanyards in Vietnam). After all, the Northern Alliance helped us when we got into Afghanistan, maybe a coalition of hired tribesmen (who get paid directly by us, since money matters in that part of the world) can help get us out?

  • Rhyno327 says:

    Iam thinking LIBERTYSHIP is right. Turning them against one another has been mentioned before. Iam waiting for the day US warplanes hit multiple targets all over P-stan. There are 150+ camps. Hit the ones operating. The PAKi’s are not gonna do it, thats for sure.

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