US Predator strike kills 12 in North Waziristan


Click to view slide show of the Haqqani Network. Pictured is Nasiruddin Haqqani.

The US carried out its first Predator airstrike inside Pakistan’s tribal areas in almost three weeks. Twelve “rebels” were reported killed in the airstrike in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan.

The strike took place today in the village of Issori, just outside of Miramshah, the main town in North Waziristan. One missile fired from either a Predator or the more more deadly Reaper struck a compound thought to be sheltering Taliban or al Qaeda operatives.

“One missile fired from a US drone struck a militant compound in the village killing at least twelve rebels,” a senior Pakistani security official told AFP. Another Pakistani official said the casualties from the attack could rise. No senior al Qaeda, Taliban, or allied terror group operatives have been reported killed in the strike at this time.

The village of Issori 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. Siraj Haqqani is the leader of the Miramshah Regional Military Shura, one of the Taliban’s top four commands. Siraj sits on the Taliban’s Quetta Shura and is also a member of al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis. The Haqqanis are based on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border, and operate primarily in the Afghan provinces of Khost, Paktia, and Paktika.

Another top leader of the Haqqani Network is Nasiruddin Haqqani, a brother of Siriaj. In July, the US Treasury added Nasiruddin to the list of specially designated global terrorists. Nasiruddin has traveled to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates between 2004-2009 to carry out fundraising for the Haqqani Network, al Qaeda, and the Taliban.

The US has been targeting the Haqqani Network in Pakistan as part of its Predator air campaign. The US killed Mohammed Haqqani, another of the 12 sons of Jalaluddin Haqqani, in the Feb. 18 airstrike in Danda Darpa Khel just outside Miramshah. Mohammed served as a military commander for the Haqqani Network. Siraj Haqqani and his military commander, Mullah Sangeen Zadran, have been the targets of several strikes over the past year.

Despite the known presence of al Qaeda and other foreign groups in North Waziristan, and requests by the US that action be taken against these groups, the Pakistani military has indicated that it has no plans to take on the Haqqani Network or allied Taliban leaders Hafiz Gul Bahadar and Mullah Nazir. The Haqqanis, Bahadar, and Nazir are considered “good Taliban” by the Pakistani military establishment as they do not carry out attacks inside Pakistan. The US military has been lobbying Pakistan to take on the Haqqani Network, but has recently eased the pressure after recognizing that the Pakistani government has no interest in tackling the al Qaeda-linked group.

Background on US strikes in Pakistan

Today’s strike is the first reported inside Pakistan in August, and the first since July 25. The pause in strikes is the longest since the attacks were ramped up in July 2008. Over the past year, the US has averaged between six to eight strikes a month. Last month, the US carried out just four attacks inside Pakistan.

So far this year, the US has carried out 50 strikes in Pakistan; all but five have taken place in North Waziristan. The other five strikes took place in South Waziristan and the tribal agency of Khyber.

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 the tribal areas 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.]

The US scored its biggest success in the air campaign in Pakistan in May of this year. On May 21, a US strike in North Waziristan killed Mustafa Abu Yazid, one of al Qaeda’s top leaders, and the most senior al Qaeda leader to have been killed in the US air campaign in Pakistan to date.

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. He served on al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis, or top decision-making council. Yazid also was closely allied with the Taliban and advocated the program of embedding small al Qaeda teams with Taliban forces in Afghanistan.

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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  • kp says:

    One “missile” kills 12.

    Pretty high yield for even a thermobaric Hellfire (though not impossible). Perhaps it was SDB hitting a building with no other civilians inside the 8m lethal radius (or some larger sublethal or non-lethal radius … whatever the ROE).

    One notes that translation from other languages often don’t distinguish between missiles (i.e. rocket propelled bombs) and gravity bombs. Hamas and Hezbollah often describe “missile” attacks that are clearly gravity bombs.

    A single missile sounds like a hit on a meeting in progress and hard enough to have no need to “clean up the squirters” afterwards.

  • Don says:

    All this is ample reason for the antitaliban alliance, including NATO, the Afghan army and perhaps Indian mountain fighters, to destroy the N. Waziristan Taliban and occupy the territory.

  • Marlin says:

    A few more details about the strike.

    The area people said the attack was carried out at around 9:30pm and its target was a hujra (place of entertainment) of Shera Din, a resident of Isuri village in Mir Ali.

    Dawn: US drone strike kills 13 in North Waziristan

  • ramgun says:

    I wonder how you are so sure most or all of these people killed are rebels and not civilians. If the source is the Pak security, its rather funny. These guys will always want to portray anyone killed as a rebel and not as a civilian – otherwise they risk an even bigger social unrest in these regions

  • Bill Roggio says:

    ramgun, the answer is: I’m not sure. I am clear that the information is based on reports that are in the Pakistani press (Dawn, Geo News, and Daily Times are primary sources). Given that these areas are under Taliban control, it isn’t easy to get good information out of the region. I will say that I see very little effort by the Taliban to refute the media reports.

  • kp says:

    How do you know who they are and they’re not civilians? A mix of local info plus observation/imagery and probably other “technical means” too.

    We talked about this before (e.g. these guys move differently from the local population; they’re dress differently (clothes don’t touch the ground; ); they move around in small groups. And their the difference out in the open. US imagery groups have also been doing work on high magnification face recognition (from drones) to help ID particularly people they’ll target.

    You can see from their tempo (bursty) that they’re not just random targeting. They’re looking for middle management and up.

  • Render says:

    KP – Reapers can also carry GBU-12 Paveway II 500lbers in pairs.
    From the ground looking up at stuff coming down, its all a missile.
    The other possibility not mentioned is that of secondary explosions. A case of grenades, RPG warheads or their boosters, or mortar rounds will turn a crowded room into pink mist very quickly.

  • madashell59 says:

    Maybe this is the new “Rules of engagement” that Patreus has put in. If you are hanging around a bad guy then you must be a bad guy. If you are not a bad guy then do not hang around bad guys unless you want to get killed.

  • Altaf says:

    Dear all, first of all I intro myself, i m from Pakistan, resident and a good citizen of Pakistan.
    How you say they are Taliban? For your kind info Waziristan people are not educated and not aware with media war which is going to playing with them. They could not express themselves in media due to low education and information.
    Have you even seen any msg from them on net or in any news paper?
    Have your any independent news paper or tv person visited the place and seen what the media is saying about them?
    Our media and Government is not sincere they all are doing for money, killing innocent people.
    If we accept that there is Taliban in Waziristan – Pakistan, then how they can attack on USA? Please use commonsense.
    Due to this platform I am requesting to all world and specially USA & NATO forces please please don’t kill innocent people…. we accept that you are super power, but super power means not to kill innocent and naked hand people.
    Hope you all understand what I want to say……?
    Regards / a true Pakistani

  • T Ruth says:

    Altaf, while your plea appears sincere, im not really sure what is a true Pakistani? Perhaps you can explain to us.
    I respect your observation “Our media and Government is not sincere they all are doing for money, killing innocent people.”
    So is ‘true’ Pakistani a friend of the USA? Of the West? Of India?
    Another thing, kindly explain:
    “If we accept that there is Taliban in Waziristan – Pakistan, then how they can attack on USA? Please use commonsense.”
    The commonsense that prevails here is that the border is like a one-way mirror. The border provides the security to AQ and Taliabn to hide there, along with the collaboration of your deceiptful Army.
    In turn ISAF gets ltd access to Pak, essentially via predators/drones. As for news and views from that area, at least one well-known activist FROM THAT AREA, Dr Farhat Taj has told us that the really true innocent people from the area are in support of US drones for they do not support the Taliban.
    So, no i don’t understand at all what you say, but you can try to explain it further….
    Btw, pls note one reason why the countries haven’t exactly been rushing to send money to Pak in its flood and human disaster is because the world is not exactly in love with your country. For that you can blame your leadership who are both violent and corrupt.


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