4 killed in second Predator strike in Pakistan today

The US executed yet another Predator strike in Pakistan’s lawless tribal agency of North Waziristan today. The strike is the second today and the 11th this month.

Unmanned US Predators, or the more deadly Reapers, fired two missiles at a vehicle in the village of Qutabkhel, which is on the outskirts of Miramshah, the main town in North Waziristan.

“A US drone fired two missiles on a vehicle carrying militants outside Miramshah,” a senior Pakistan security official told AFP. “At least four militants were killed in the attack.”

No senior terrorist leaders have been reported killed in the strike.

Miramshah is in the sphere of influence of the Haqqani Network, a Taliban group led by mujahedeen commander Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Siraj.

Earlier today, US Predators fired three missiles at a compound in the village of of Bushnarai in the Shawal area of North Waziristan. Eleven terrorists, including several “foreigners,” a term reserved for al Qaeda operatives, were killed in the attack.

Background on recent strikes

Over the past two weeks, the US has hit targets in northwestern Pakistan at an unprecedented rate. Today’s strike is the 11th since Sept. 1, making September tied with January of this year as being the most active month since the US began launching strikes in Pakistan in 2004. The US launched a string of strikes in January 2010 in the aftermath of the suicide attack on a US combat outpost in Khost, Afghanistan, that killed seven CIA officials and a Jordanian intelligence officer.

With today’s strikes, the US has carried out 65 attacks inside Pakistan this year. The US exceeded last year’s strike total of 53 with a strike in Kurram late last month. In 2008, the US carried out 36 strikes inside Pakistan. [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 65 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 one took place in Kurram.

Since July 2008, 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.]

Background on the Haqqani Network in North Waziristan

The Haqqani family runs the Manba Ulom madrassa in the village of Danda Darpa Khel, a hub of activity for the terror group. The US has struck at targets in Danda Darpa Khel six times since Aug. 20, 2009, and eight times since September 2008.

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. In addition, 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 Siraj. 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. On Feb. 18, the US killed Mohammed Haqqani, another of the 12 sons of Jalaluddin Haqqani, in an airstrike in Danda Darpa Khel, just outside Miramshah. Mohammed had served as a military commander for the Haqqani Network. Over the past year, Siraj Haqqani and his military commander, Mullah Sangeen Zadran, have been the targets of several strikes.

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.

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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7 Comments

  • hoagland says:

    They sure seem to be ramping up the strikes this month. sending someone a message

  • Bill Roggio says:

    kp, I found a report from a few years back, it is a 15 mile square area that overlooks Miramshah. The reporter talked about how they could see Miramshah from the rooftop.

  • Civy says:

    Congratulations Bill, a very nice shout-out for TLWJ. Keep up the good work!
    //news.yahoo.com/s/ap/as_pakistan

  • Mr T says:

    But never any high value targets. That is just too suspicious. Even a blind squirrel finds an acorn every once in a while.

  • Tig says:

    Sometimes HVT deaths are not immediately verified or reported. Tahir Yuldashev, for example, was killed last August but his death wasn’t confirmed until quite recently.

  • kp says:

    Thanks, Bill. The verbal descriptions I’ve seen the Sawhal Mountains are in South Waziristan and the plains adjacent to the them are in souther NW. Of course it’s not an uncommon name: I presume named for the month after Ramadan ends just after Eid.

    Mr T: But the acorns fall close to the tree. They don’t walk off and hide in unfamiliar habitat communing only with highly trusted chestnuts and walnuts. And perhaps the odd paid off squirrel.

    If it makes you feel happier AZ was in Sawhal in 2004. A video he shot was located by looking at the unusual vegetation in the background: forensic botany. There’s a novel there: the life of a forensic botanist in the CIA.

    But take a look on Google Maps in satellite view. There are a lot of ordinary houses to hide in this bit of NW. MO is beleived to be in one of the big cities and I suspect that’s where UBL and AZ are. Out of the range of the UAVs. And making even boots on the ground more difficult. The folks in NW are there because it’s a 5 mile walk to the border.

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