The US has killed four “terrorists” in a Predator airstrike in Pakistan’s Taliban-infested tribal agency of Kurram.
The airstrike, likely carried out by Predators or the more deadly Reapers, hit two vehicles near a compound in the village of Shahidano today. The vehicles were said to have been traveling from Arakzai into Kurram when they were hit.
“Four terrorists have been killed in this drone attack,” a Pakistani security official in Peshawar told AFP. “All those killed were terrorists belonging to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan,” another Pakistani intelligence official told the news agency, referring to the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, which is run by al Qaeda ally Hakeemullah Mehsud.
No senior Taliban or al Qaeda leaders have been reported killed in the attack.
Today’s strike is just the third inside Kurram since 2004, when the US began targeting al Qaeda and allied terror groups in Pakistan’s northwest.
The Taliban in Kurram are commanded by Maulvi Noor Jamal, who is also known as Mullah Toofan. Jamal is reputed to be a brutal and effective leader, and is considered a potential successor to Hakeemullah Mehsud, the overall leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. After Hakeemullah was reported killed in late January 2010, Jamal denied rumors that he had taken control of the Pakistani Taliban.
The Taliban have regrouped in Kurram and the neighboring tribal agencies of Khyber and Arakzai after the Pakistani military launched operations against Hakeemullah Mehsud’s forces in South Waziristan in October 2009.
Today’s strike is the fifth this month, and the 54rd this year. With today’s strike, the US has exceeded last year’s strike total of 53. 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.]
All but six of this year’s 54 strikes have taken place in North Waziristan. Of the six strikes that have occurred outside of North Waziristan, four took place in South Waziristan, one occurred in Khyber, and the latest strike took place in Kurram.
Background on recent US strikes in Pakistan
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 earlier 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.
And earlier this month, another top terrorist leader was confirmed killed. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) recently confirmed that its leader, Tahir Yuldashev, was killed in the aftermath of the Aug. 27, 2009, airstrike in South Waziristan. Yuldashev was close to Osama bin Laden and was also a member of al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis. The IMU is an al Qaeda affiliate that is based along the Afghan and Pakistani border.
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