The US killed 10 people in an airstrike in a known al Qaeda haven in the Taliban stronghold of North Waziristan.
Unmanned Predator or the more deadly Reapers fired at least two missiles at a compound in the town of Inzar Kala in the Datta Khel region near the Afghan border. Ten “rebels” were killed in the strike, according to AFP.
“The compound became suspicious as it was being used by foreigners,” a Pakistani official said, referring to al Qaeda fighters. “It was, however, not immediately known if any high-value target was present in the area at the time of attack.”
Today’s airstrike took place in a region administered by North Waziristan Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Bahadar. Al Qaeda and allied Pakistani and Central Asian jihadist groups shelter in Bahadar’s tribal areas, and they also run training camps and safe houses in the region.
Datta Khel is a known hub for al Qaeda. The Lashkar al Zil, or Shadow Army, al Qaeda’s military force, is based in the region. The US has struck targets in Datta Khel 13 times since 2004, which makes for nearly 10 percent of the attacks.
The US killed Abdullah Said al Libi, the leader of the Lashkar al Zil, and Zuhaib al Zahibi, a senior commander, in a Dec. 17, 2009, strike in Datta Khel. The target of the attack was Sheikh Saeed al Saudi, Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law and a senior leader on al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis, or executive council.
Despite the known presence of al Qaeda and other foreign groups in North Waziristan, the Pakistani military has indicated that it has no plans to take on Bahadar or the Haqqani Network, a deadly Taliban group that is closely allied with al Qaeda. Bahadar and the Haqqanis are considered “good Taliban” by the Pakistani military establishment as they do not carry out attacks inside Pakistan.
The US is stepping up pressure on Pakistan to take the Taliban and al Qaeda directly in North Waziristan and the port city of Karachi since the recent failed attack in Times Square in New York City has been traced back to Waziristan. Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani-American behind the plot, admitted to training with the Taliban in North Waziristan.
US strikes in Pakistan, by the numbers
Today’s strike is the second reported inside Pakistan this month, and the first in six days. On May 3, US aircraft killed four “militants” in a strike in Marsi Khel in North Waziristan.
The US is well on its way to exceeding last year’s strike total in Pakistan. So far this year, the US has carried out 33 strikes in Pakistan; all of the strikes this year have taken place in North Waziristan. In 2009, the US carried out 53 strikes in Pakistan; and in 2008, the US carried out 36 strikes in the country. [For up-to-date charts on the US air campaign in Pakistan, see: “Charting the data for US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2010.”]
Unmanned US Predator and Reaper strike aircraft have been pounding Taliban and al Qaeda hideouts in North Waziristan over the past several months in an effort to kill senior terror leaders and disrupt the networks that threaten Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the West. [For more information, see LWJ report, “Senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders killed in US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2010.”]
Most recently, on March 8, a US strike in a bazaar in Miramshah killed a top al Qaeda operative known as Sadam Hussein Al Hussami. Hussami was a prot