Eleven terrorists, including two “foreigners,” were killed in the latest US airstrike in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan.
Unmanned US aircraft struck a Taliban training camp in the Datta Khel region in North Waziristan twice today. The second strike hit the Taliban as they attempted to recover bodies from the first strike.
“Two foreigners died in the initial attack,” a senior Pakistani security official told AFP. “Five militants were killed in the previous attack and six in this attack.” Dawn later put the number killed at 17 and said the death toll could go as high as 25.
The identity of the foreigners, a term used to describe Arab members of al Qaeda, has not been disclosed. No senior al Qaeda or Taliban leaders have been reported killed.
The Taliban were using a mud-brick fort in the village of Sanzali to carry out training. The fort was run by North Waziristan Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadar. The Pakistani military signed another peace agreement with Bahadar this year.
Today’s strike is the third this year and the fourth in one week. It is also the fourth strike since an al Qaeda/Haqqani Network suicide bomber killed seven CIA officials, including the station chief, and a Jordanian intelligence officer, in an attack at Combat Outpost Chapman in Khost province. The outpost was used to gather intelligence for strikes against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The US has ramped up the strikes against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan’s tribal areas since August 2008. There were 53 strikes in 2009, 36 in 2008, and 10 from 2004-2007 combined [See LWJ report, “Analysis: US air campaign in Pakistan heats up” for more information.]
North Waziristan has become the focal point of the US air campaign in Pakistan. Since the Aug. 5 strike in South Waziristan that killed Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, 18 of the 22 reported airstrikes have taken place in North Waziristan, while the other four were in South Waziristan.
The Datta Khel region in South Waziristan is a known haven for al Qaeda and allied Central Asian jihadi groups. The US has conducted multiple strikes in the Datta Khel region, which is administered by Hafiz Gul Bahadar and the Haqqani Network. The latest strike in Datta Khel, on Dec. 17, 2009, targeted Sheikh Saeed al Saudi, Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law and a member of al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis, or executive council. Al Saudi is thought to have survived the strike.
Datta Khel borders the Jani Khel region in the settled district of Bannu. The Jani Khel region has long been a strategic meeting place and safe haven for al Qaeda and the Taliban. Jani Khel was identified as the headquarters for al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis back in 2007. Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s second in command, has operated in the Jani Khel region. The US has struck al Qaeda safe houses in Jani Khel twice since last year. These strikes are the only two Predator attacks that have occurred outside of Pakistan’s tribal areas.
The town of Jani Khel is a known haven for al Qaeda leaders and fighters. Senior al Qaeda operative Abdullah Azzam al Saudi was killed in a Predator strike in Jani Khel on Nov. 19, 2008. Azzam served as a liaison between al Qaeda and the Taliban operating in Pakistan’s northwest.
Al Qaeda is known to have deposited its donations received from Europe into the Bayt al Mal, or Bank of Money, in Jani Khel, according to a report at the NEFA Foundation. The Bayt al Mal served as al Qaeda’s treasury.
“The money can only be released on Osama bin Laden’s direction, and when such an order is given, it is Mustafa Abu Yazid who executes it,” the NEFA Foundation report said. Yazid, who is also known as Sheikh Saeed al Masri, is the leader of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and also serves as the group’s chief financial operative.
US strikes in Pakistan in 2010:
• US kills 11 in latest North Waziristan strike
Jan. 6, 2010
• US airstrike kills 2 Taliban fighters in Mir Ali in Pakistan
Jan. 3, 2010
• US kills 3 Taliban in second strike in North Waziristan
Jan. 1, 2010
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Note to jihadists: Don’t kill CIA agents/Jordanian intel officers.
“The second strike hit the Taliban as they attempted to recovery bodies from the first strike.”
I’ve often wondered why this wasn’t done, when reading descriptions of previous strikes, and thought maybe it was due to a sense of fair-play on the part of the strike coordinators: we hit the target so let the underlings take care of their dead and wounded in peace.
Can this be read as a sign that now the gloves are off?
Caught a detail that was overlooked, report says it is the third strike since an al Qaeda/Haqqani Network attack on the CIA base at Combat Outpost Chapman in Khost province. Actually it is the fourth strike.
Tim, I have three counted for 2010; the Dec. 31 strike is being counted by some as being 2010 but that is wrong, the Pakistani press was clear that it occurred on New Year’s Eve.
The Bayt al Mal sounds very strategic. I wonder why it has not been targetted for a drone strike.
The Bait ul-Mal is certainly a hotspot.
By attacking sensitive areas for AQ, whether it be advanced training camps, financial coordination areas or important staging areas, the drone strikes will cause top AQ leaders to stay away from the hotspots that are being targetted regularly. If you simaltanelously and frequently go after certain areas, the Al-Qaeda’s top leadership WILL avoid those areas. That makes it slightly easier to start eliminating reliable safe areas for Al-Qaeda’s leaders to go.
Agreed that there has been 3 strikes in 2010. I was referring to strikes since the CIA base attack. Correct me, if I am wrong, but the Haqqani attack on the CIA base occured on Dec. 30. Counting the New Years Eve strike that would be four strikes since the deadly attack.
I stand corrected; I misread your post. You are correct, it was the 4th since COP Chapman. I updated the numbers accordingly, thanks for the heads up.
I heart drones coming back for sloppy seconds!
There should be a reality TV show for this, the profits should be used to balance the budget and pay down the national debt.
Dawn.com is referring to the occupants as “guests,” where they usually refer to them as “foreigners.”
Also one report (Geo I believe) said that there were three strikes vs. two.
The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 01/04/2010 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.
“There should be a reality TV show for this, the profits should be used to balance the budget and pay down the national debt.”
Good lateral thinking i’d say….might just also conjure up greater US/Western public support for this campaign!