The US conducted its second airstrike inside Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan in 24 hours.
Three Taliban fighters are reported to have been killed after US strike aircraft, likely unmanned Predators or Reapers, fired a Hellfire missile at a vehicle in the town of Ghundikala in the Mir Ali region.
“A US drone fired two missiles, targeting a vehicle and killing three militants,” a senior Pakistani security official told AFP. The vehicle was completely destroyed, eyewitnesses said.
“We saw a vehicle engulfed in flames after the missile strike,” a local tribesman told AFP. “It was difficult to go close to the vehicle as it was surrounded by militants, who later removed dead bodies from the wreckage.”
No senior al Qaeda or Taliban leaders were reported killed.
Today’s attack follows yesterday’s strike that killed four Taliban fighters. US aircraft hit a safe house in the town of Machi Khel near Mir Ali.
The town of Mir Ali is a known stronghold of al Qaeda leader Abu Kasha al Iraqi, an Iraqi national who is also known as Abu Akash. He has close links to the Taliban and the Haqqani Network. The Haqqani Network and Hafiz Gul Bahadar also have influence in the Mir Ali region.
Abu Kasha serves as the key link between al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis, or executive council, and the Taliban. His responsibilities have expanded to assisting in facilitating al Qaeda’s external operations against the West.
Last year, the US carried out 52 airstrikes inside Pakistan. In 2008, 36 strikes were carried out. Since the US ramped up cross-border attacks in August 2008, 16 senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders have been killed.
Today’s attack is the second since the Haqqani Network conducted a suicide attack inside a CIA compound at Combat Outpost Chapman in Khost province, Afghanistan, on Dec. 30. Seven CIA employees, including the base commander, and a US civilian were killed in the attack. The suicide bomber is said to have been invited to the base.
The CIA is said to recruit local Afghans and possibly Pakistanis to provide intelligence on al Qaeda and the Taliban on both sides of the border. The CIA base at Combat Outpost Chapman is said to be “at the heart” of the US covert air campaign against the Taliban and al Qaeda.
“US personnel at the site of the attack, Forward Operating Base Chapman, are heavily involved in the selection of al-Qaeda and Taliban targets for drone aircraft strikes, according to two former intelligence officials who have visited the facility,” The Washington Post reported. “The drones themselves are flown from separate bases in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Because of its location near a hotbed of insurgent activity, the base is also a center for recruiting and debriefing informants, the officials said, and it would not be unusual for local Afghans to be admitted to the facility for questioning.”