Baitullah Mehsud’s wife killed in Predator attack

The US may have came close to killing Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud in an airstrike on a compound in South Waziristan today.

Unmanned US strike aircraft fired two Hellfire missiles at a compound owned by Ikramuddin Mehsud, Baitullah’s father-in-law, in the village of Zanghra, near Baitullah’s home town of Makeen in the Taliban stronghold of South Waziristan.

Baitullah’s second wife and two Taliban fighters were killed in the attack; four children were reported to have been wounded. Baitullah was not killed in the attack, his second wife’s cousin told Reuters.

It was thought Baitullah was visiting his wife when the strike occurred, a US intelligence official with knowledge of the air campaign in Pakistan told The Long War Journal.

First strike in Pakistan in 19 days

Today’s attack in South Waziristan is the first since July 17, when US aircraft killed five Taliban fighters in a region controlled by North Waziristan Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadar.

The US has shifted the focus of its covert air campaign in Pakistan’s tribal areas almost exclusively against Baitullah Mehsud in South Waziristan. Of the 32 US strikes carried out in Pakistan this year, 23 of them have taken place in South Waziristan.

Baitullah Mehsud’s territory has been hit 15 times and Mullah Nazir’s areas have been hit eight times. Both Nazir and Baitullah host al Qaeda training camps and shelter senior leaders of the terror group. Eight of the last 10 attacks have targeted Baitullah’s camps and safe houses.

The US is well on its way to exceeding last year’s total of 36 airstrikes in Pakistan.

The US has taken aim at Baitullah several times and may have came close to killing him in late June. On June 23, US Predators killed a mid-level Taliban commander loyal to Baitullah Mehsud, then followed up with an attack on his funeral procession that same day.

The second strike on June 23 killed 83 Taliban fighters and civilians, according to reports. Baitullah, along with Qari Hussain Mehsud, a senior commander in Baitullah’s network, and Mullah Sangeen Zadran, a field commander in the Haqqani Network in Afghanistan, were the targets of the June 23 strikes. The three Taliban leaders survived the attack.

In mid-June, the US launched a flurry of Predator strikes in South Waziristan that coincided with an important meeting between Baitullah and a senior delegation of Taliban and al Qaeda leaders to discuss the military’s operation in South Waziristan. Among those in attendance were Siraj Haqqani, Abu Yahya al Libi, Abdul Haq, and two senior deputies of Mullah Abdullah Zakir. The US appears to have targeted al Qaeda’s senior leadership as it met with Baitullah.

The Pakistani government and military have identified Baitullah as the number one enemy of the state. On June 20, the military announced it had launched an operation to defeat Baitullah and would move into South Waziristan in force.

But the military has refused to enter South Waziristan, since the breakdown of peace agreements with Mullah Nazir and Bahadar. The military has instead signaled it intends to conduct a punitive operation by cutting off the region and pounding Baitullah’s camps with air and artillery strikes [see LWJ report, South Waziristan offensive ‘punitive,’ not counterinsurgency].

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 also has 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 five 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 a member of al Qaeda’s top council, was 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’s 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:

Baitullah Mehsud’s wife killed in Predator attack

Aug. 5, 2009

US Predator strikes in North Waziristan, kills 5

July 17, 2009

US strikes Taliban communications center in South Waziristan

July 10, 2009

US kills 25 Taliban in second Predator strike in South Waziristan

July 8, 2009

US Predator strike on Taliban camp kills 8 in South Waziristan

July 8, 2009

US Predator strike kills 14 Taliban in South Waziristan

July 7, 2009

13 Taliban fighters killed in US airstrikes in Pakistan

July 3, 2009

Scores of Taliban killed in second US strike in South Waziristan

June 23, 2009

Six killed in US Predator attack in South Waziristan

June 23, 2009

US strikes target Mullah Nazir in South Waziristan

June 18, 2009

US kills five in South Waziristan strike

June 14, 2009

US strikes Taliban, al Qaeda in North Waziristan

May 16, 2009

US strikes again in South Waziristan

May 12, 2009

US strike targets Baitullah Mehsud territory in South Waziristan

May 9, 2009

US strike kills 10 Taliban in South Waziristan

April 29, 2009

US airstrike targets Taliban training camp in South Waziristan

April 19, 2009

US Predator kills four in South Waziristan strike

April 8, 2009

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.



  • Mike says:

    Great news! Hope this guy is rnnuning scared.

  • gandalf says:

    Strong buzz that Baitullah’s brother was also killed. Very tentative, a Paki source is saying that Baitullah was also killed, waiting for confirmation.

  • SaracensAtRGates says:

    To these guys losing a wife is akin to losing property like a prized goat. It is refreshing to think that they must be terrified of just going outside to take a pee. The fun will really begin when the Army starts to deploy swarms of the next generation of killer bots that will track these guys down all the way into the deepest recesses of their retched spider holes. Until then the USAF video gamers in Nevada have the pleasure of keeping up the pressure on these cockroaches.

  • JT says:

    Mr. Roggio,
    US reports typically refer to training camps, while Pakistan reports refer to “hideouts.” Are these terms interchangeable? Does this mean that last year’s number of “several hundred” camps is steadily being decreased?

  • Minnor says:

    This can be called President Zardari’s revenge for killing of his wife Benazir by Baitullah Mehsud.

  • David M says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 08/06/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

  • gandalf says:

    Here’s the latest intel on the hit:
    Baitullah’s truck entered the compound about an hour before the hit at 0130.
    The Taliban have blocked all entrances to the village for the last 36 hours since the hit. Lots of Mehsud’s men all over the place. This is very odd, usually once the bodies are recovered after a missile strike, they let the locals have the area back to clean up the rubble.
    This morning there was a mini-obituary on a Taliban friendly Pak site while it stressed that Baitullah was unhurt by the strike.
    Confirmed that 4 were killed, Baitullah’s wife and brother and two others that the Taliban are refusing to identify, very odd. Usually they come clean right away after the burial. By custom the dead have to be buried before the next sunrise after the death.
    The Taliban Shura, their leadership council, met in Makeen 20 hours ago and only Baitullah’s father-in-law Ikramuddin showed up with Baitullah’s commanders.
    After the meeting Ikramuddin went to N Waziristan to meet with other Taliban leadership.
    Ikramuddin has been the main go-between with the Paki military trying to broker a deal to avoid a Pak invasion of S Waziristan. His movements are closely watched and he was known to meet with Baitullah often.
    Very possibly the facade of negotiations and temporary cease-fire from our UAV’s on Ikramuddin’s compound allowed Baitullah to get complacent and decide to do an overnight with the wife.

  • gandalf says:

    Another update:
    Baitullah had moved his wife out of Ikramuddin’s (her father’s) compound about a month ago due to fears of a Pak invasion. The gathering of 40+ was mostly women, some sort of ladies-only party. That is what drew Baitullah’s wife in. As previously posted, Baitullah was known to nearly always overnight with his wife and reports are that he showed up late.

  • Scott says:

    Gandalf…thanks for the info. But I have a question. There was a mini obituary for whom? Baitman or his wife?

  • Tommy says:

    US officials tell ABC News there are strong indications that Baitullah Mehsud was killed!

  • Stu says:

    How is it that HVTs seem to have foreknowledge of these strikes? Yes, we have informants and satellite intelligence, but the enemy always seems to evade the big kill strikes. I hope our side can smoke out the moles.
    There might be some hope in the post-strike security aspect of the story, an indication of how high value the kills were this time.

  • this is a comment for mr. minnor:
    if this is indeed Zardari’s revenge for his wife’s murder, then i have sympathy for him
    i didn’t know the whole story of why this war has begun, but this will not end until one of them learns to forgive
    which is of course very difficult to do.

  • Minnor says:

    @manila street, I agree Benazir’s case is different since she was/would be a commander, which is not the case here.
    Most likely wife of Mehsud is not a commander nor a combatant. Now that Mehsud himself was targeted will justify attack on fortified compound.


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