The US launched a covert airstrike against a Taliban safe house in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of South Waziristan.
An unmanned Predator strike aircraft fired two Hellfire missiles at a Taliban safehouse and a vehicle in the town of Kanigoram, which is just 15 miles northeast of the main town of Wana. Ten Taliban fighters and foreigners, a term used to describe al Qaeda, were killed in the strike, Geo News reported. No senior Taliban or al Qaeda leaders have been reported killed at this time.
The town of Wana is a stronghold of South Waziristan Taliban commander Mullah Nazir, a 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. But Kanigoram is in territory controlled by Baitullah Mehsud.
The US is on pace to exceed last year’s total of 36 airstrikes in Pakistan. Today’s strike is the fifth this month and the sixteenth inside Pakistan this year. The last attack took place on April 19 in the town of Gangi Khel, which is also near the town of Wana. The region is a known Taliban and al Qaeda hotbed.
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. US Predators are based in Pakistan and are operated by the CIA.
Today’s attack takes place as the Pakistani military is conducting operations against the Taliban in Dir and Buner.
Baitullah Mehsud lead alliance against the Pakistani governemnt and the West
Today’s strike is the seventh recorded attack against camps and compounds in Baitullah’s tribal areas. The last attack in Baitullah’s territory took place on March 26. Eight terrorists, including Arabs, were reported killed in the attack in Baitullah’s home town of Madeen.
Baitullah is the leader of the Tehrik-e-Taliban, or the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, a group established in December of 2007 to unite disparate Taliban groups in Pakistan’sThe northwest. The Tehrik-e-Taliban has led the insurgency and conducted many of the terror attacks against the Pakistani government.
In February, Baitullah put aside tribal rivalries and joined forces with senior Taliban leaders Hafiz Gul Bahadar and Mullah Nazir in February of this year to form the Council of United Mujahideen. The three leaders said they “united according to the wishes of Mujahideen leaders like Mullah Muhammad Omar and Sheikh Osama bin Laden.”.
The Council of United Mujahideen had pamphlets distributed throughout North and South Waziristan to announce its formation. The council threatened to strike at the US and other countries. 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.
Baitullah has close ties to al Qaeda and maintains safe houses and training camps for the terror group. He also hosts camps and safe houses for the Jaish-e-Mohammed, a Pakistani terror group allied with al Qaeda and the Taliban, and the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and anti-Shia group that serves as al Qaeda’s muscle.
Click map for full view. Taliban presence, by district and tribal agency, in the Northwest Frontier Province, Punjab, 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. Last updated: April 24, 2009.
Background on US strikes against al Qaeda and Taliban networks in northwestern Pakistan
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:
April 29, 2009
April 19, 2009
April 8, 2009
April 4, 2009
April 1, 2009
March 26, 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.