US Predator strike kills 3 in North Waziristan


Click to view slide show of the Haqqani Network. Pictured is a composite image of Siraj Haqqani.

The US killed three suspected terrorists in the first airstrike in Pakistan’s lawless tribal agencies this month.

The strike, which was carried out by unmanned Predators or the more deadly Reapers, targeted “a sprawling compound” in the village of Norak in North Waziristan, according to Reuters. It is unclear if the strike targeted al Qaeda, the Taliban, or allied Central Asian terror groups known to operate in the tribal agency.

The compound is known to be used by the Taliban. The Taliban have reportedly cordoned off the scene of the attack and are preventing outsiders from observing recovery operations.

No senior al Qaeda or Taliban leaders have been reported killed at this time.

The town of Norak is in the sphere of influence of the Haqqani Network, a Taliban group led by mujahedeen commander Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Siraj. The Haqqanis are closely allied to al Qaeda and to the Taliban, led by Mullah Omar. The Haqqanis are based on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border. Siraj is the leader the Miramshah Regional Military Shura, one of the Taliban’s top four commands; he sits on the Taliban’s Quetta Shura; and he is also is a member of al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis.

The US killed Mohammed Haqqani, one of 12 sons of Jalaluddin Haqqani, in the Feb. 18 airstrike in Danda Darpa Khel just outside of Miramshah, the main town in North Waziristan. Mohammed served as a military commander for the Haqqani Network.

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 the Haqqani Network or allied Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Bahadar. The Haqqanis and Bahadar are considered “good Taliban” by the Pakistani military establishment as they do not carry out attacks inside Pakistan.

Today’s strike is just the second since Philip Alston, the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, called for the CIA to end the attacks in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Alston claimed the program is not subject to accountability that would exist under a program run by the US military.

Alston’s comments follow criticisms of the CIA program earlier this year by the American Civil Liberties Union, which has filed a lawsuit against the the Defense Department, the State Department, and the Justice Department, demanding enforcement of its January request for information on the program.

The US government has defended the air campaign in Pakistan, and insisted the program is in line with international laws of war and remains accountable to the US Congress.

Background on US strikes in Pakistan

Today’s strike is the first reported inside Pakistan this month. So far this year, the US has carried out 39 strikes in Pakistan; all but two of them have taken place in North Waziristan. An airstrike on May 28 occurred in South Waziristan. Al Qaeda later announced that Osama bin Ali bin Abdullah bin Damjan al Dawsari, a wanted Saudi terrorist, was killed in the strike.

The US is well on its way to exceeding last year’s strike total in Pakistan. 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 LWJ Special Report, Charting the data for US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2010.”]

Over the past several months, unmanned US Predator and Reaper strike aircraft have been pounding Taliban and al Qaeda hideouts in North Waziristan, and have also struck at targets in South Waziristan and Khyber, 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 May 21, a US strike in North Waziristan killed Mustafa Abu Yazid, one of al Qaeda’s most senior leaders. Yazid served as the leader of al Qaeda in Afghanistan and the wider Khorasan, and more importantly, as al Qaeda’s top financier, which put him in charge of the terror group’s purse strings. Yazid also was closely allied with the Taliban and advocated the program of embedding small al Qaeda teams with Taliban forces in Afghanistan.

Yazid is the most senior al Qaeda leader to have been killed in the US air campaign in Pakistan to date. His death came more than a month after a top terrorist leader claimed that the US program had been crippled.

In early April, Siraj Haqqani, the leader of the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network, said that the effectiveness of US airstrikes in killing senior Taliban and al Qaeda leaders had “decreased 90 percent” since the suicide attack on Combat Outpost Chapman. While other factors may be involved in the decreased effectiveness in killing the top-tier leaders, an analysis of the data shows that only three top-tier commanders have been killed since Jan 1, 2010, but seven top-tier leaders were killed between Aug. 1, 2009, and Dec. 31, 2009. [See LWJ report, “Effectiveness of US strikes in Pakistan ‘decreased 90 percent’ since suicide strike on CIA – Siraj Haqqani,“ for more information.]

For the past few months, most US and Pakistani officials believed that Hakeemullah Mehsud, the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, had been killed in a Jan. 14 strike in Pasalkot in North Waziristan. But recently, after four months of silence on the subject, the Taliban released two tapes to prove that Hakeemullah is alive. On the tapes, Hakeemullah said the Taliban will carry out attacks inside the US.

US strikes in Pakistan in 2010:

US Predator strike kills 3 in North Waziristan

June 10, 2010

US kills 11 in Predator strike in South Waziristan

May 28, 2010

US airstrike kills 6 in North Waziristan

May 21, 2010

US Predators carry out first strike in Khyber

May 15, 2010

US pounds Taliban in pair of strikes in North Waziristan

May 11, 2010

US airstrike kills 10 ‘rebels’ in North Waziristan

May 9, 2010

US airstrike kills 4 ‘militants’ in North Waziristan

May 3, 2010

US strike kills 8 Taliban in North Waziristan

April 26, 2010

US airstrike kills 7 Taliban in North Waziristan

April 24, 2010

US strikes kill 6 in North Waziristan

April 16, 2010

US strike kills 4 in Taliban stronghold of North Waziristan

April 14, 2010

US strike kills 5 Taliban in North Waziristan

April 12, 2010

US strikes kill 6 in North Waziristan

March 30, 2010

US strike kills 4 in North Waziristan

March 27, 2010

US kills 6 in strike against Haqqani Network

March 23, 2010

US strike kills 4 in North Waziristan

March 21, 2010

US kills 8 terrorists in 2 new airstrikes in North Waziristan

March 17, 2010

US Predator strike in North Waziristan kills 11 Taliban, al Qaeda

March 16, 2010

US airstrike kills 12 in North Waziristan

March 10, 2010

US airstrike in North Waziristan kills 5 Taliban fighters

March 8, 2010

US hits Haqqani Network in North Waziristan, kills 8

Feb. 24, 2010

US airstrikes target Haqqani Network in North Waziristan

Feb. 18, 2010

Latest US airstrike kills 3 in North Waziristan

Feb. 17, 2010

US strike kills 4 in North Waziristan

Feb. 15, 2010

US strikes training camp in North Waziristan

Feb. 14, 2010

Predators pound terrorist camp in North Waziristan

Feb. 2, 2010

US airstrike targets Haqqani Network in North Waziristan

Jan. 29, 2010

US airstrike in North Waziristan kills 6

Jan. 19, 2010

Latest US airstrike in Pakistan kills 20

Jan. 17, 2010

US strikes kill 11 in North Waziristan

Jan. 15, 2010

US airstrike hits Taliban camp in North Waziristan

Jan. 14, 2010

US airstrike kills 4 Taliban fighters in North Waziristan

Jan. 9, 2010

US airstrike kills 5 in North Waziristan

Jan. 8, 2010

US kills 17 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

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • chris says:

    seems like the more vocal protests in Pakistan mean we are hitting targets closer to those interest groups that have influence in the capital. keep it up

  • kp says:

    The “throwing a cordon” around the “destroyed house” is interesting. This sounds like more than your average militant evening hit on a building. A dinner meeting, perhaps?

    This report

    comments that at the time of filing three drones were orbiting the site. I presume for BDA and other post-strike intel.

  • Al says:

    It seems that if Taliban/Al Queda throw a cordon around an area, they are then exposing themselves. How about a UAV strike on the cordons? What is the form the cordon takes? Random road blocks? Thinly spread operatives?

  • Tmp says:

    Our drones are spotted way too often (prior to strikes) IMO.

  • kp says:

    @Al: We are not going after grunts maintaing a perimeter. We are going after the Col and General Staff inside the perimeter and their command units. As I’ve pointed out before this is not about Taliban plinking.

    @tmp: You know this because you are on ground?

    Post-strike we don’t care too much about the drones being spotted as they know where we’ve hit and we know were we’ve hit. There is no surprise. We need to gather all the intel we can (imagery, post-strike-BDA, SIGINT and ELINT) plus looks for squirters and others trying to leave the site or coming into the site. We also probably have armed drones on site too so if anyone approach the target site we hit it again. We want to convert the injured but not killed in the first strike to dead if we can and delaying either medical treatment or pulling them from the rubble helps that. They know we’ve done this in the past and reporting here shows they’ve modified their recovery procedure (i.e. if you are in a hit car you have a very good chance of dying there). Being seen may be an effective method of improving the effect of the attack (from our point of view).

    Even pre-strike letting drones be seen can have some very useful effects. The Taliban/AQ are scared of the drones (this is in open source reporting) so it has a psychological effect. If they’re close to a HVT then what do they do? Stay put and not show themselves (do the US know where they? are are we just about to hit them? Or will we hit them on the move?) or do they move (and we get to watch them move to a new location or perhaps get hit?). I’m pretty sure that we have some drones that hardly get seen at all (high flying or more silent or lower profile e.g. I suspect the Reapers with a turbo-prop are a lot quieter than the Predators with a piston engine). Do the Taliban have any confidence they can see all the drones? Certainly not. Some of the time they do and some of the time they don’t (clearly otherwise they wouldn’t loose HVTs to drone hits). That all adds to the psyops. Is that drone watching or about to strike? Part of the job the CIA are doing is disruption in addition to killing the guys we can find. The more they are disrupted the less they have time to work on their other plans.

    And that post-strike intel is used for further hits. As we’ve pointed out here before the pattern of strikes is a hit then a break then a hit then a break then a hit (on consecutive days or sometimes the same day). I presume (as they’re not all hit together) this is because hit 1 leads to info for hit 2 which leads to info for hit 3. Same again today.

  • tmp says:

    @KP – All that sounds good and most reasons given are plenty true, I’m certain. But the reality remains…Allowing the CIA to be in charge of these hits (UAVs) along with 95% of the intel gathering and collection (not allowing the Mil to generate their own targets)…….Is exactly what has allowed for more than anything else UBL, Zawahiri, Omar, Hekmatyar & Jalaluddin Haqqani to stay outside of our OODA loop. Plain and simple.
    The CIA has been incredibly risk adverse in total over the past 9 years…..while at the same time being terribly protective of keeping their turf as the intel gatherings solely theirs…
    I understand the region of the world we are speaking about and understand that “time” was on these HVTs side (in the short run) simply because of the region in which they have sancuary….
    Reality is our biggest hits that produced the most real HUMINT coming out of the Pak border regions were JSOC hits (Damadola)…with SOCOM guns on targetrs……Not CIA UAV bells and whislte strikes…
    My bottom line is this…..Clearly AQ HVTs (along with Hek and Haqqi) have managed to stay outside of the CIA OODA loop…. It is time, by far past time, to try and different route..


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