US kills 18 ‘militants’ in 3 strikes in North Waziristan

The US killed 18 “militants” in three Predator airstrikes today in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan.

The first strike took place just outside of Miramshah in the town of Danda Darpa Khel. The strike targeted a compound, killing 10 “militants,” Pakistani security officials told AFP. The US Predators returned to Danda Darpa Khel and struck again at another compound, killing four more Haqqani Network fighters, according to Dawn.

The village of Danda Darpa Khel is in the sphere of influence of the Haqqani Network, the al Qaeda-linked Taliban group led by mujahedeen commander Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Siraj. 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 seven times since Aug. 20, 2009, and nine times since September 2008.

The other strike took place in the town of Ambor Shaga in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan. Three missiles were fired at a vehicle, killing four more “militants.”

No senior Taliban or al Qaeda commanders have been reported killed in any of the three strikes, and the targets of the attacks are not known.

Datta Khel is the stronghold of Hafiz Gul Bahadar, a Taliban commander who is viewed as “good Taliban” by the Pakistani military as he does not advocate attacks on the Pakistani state. Bahadar supports attacks in Afghanistan and shelters al Qaeda fighters in tribal areas under his control.

Datta Khel also serves as a headquarters for al Qaeda. The US has killed top al Qaeda leaders Mustafa Abu Yazid, Abdullah Said al Libi, and Zuhaib al Zahib in strikes in the area over the past year. [For more on al Qaeda’s presence in Datta Khel, see LWJ report, US strike kills 5 in al Qaeda haven in North Waziristan].

Four of the last six Predator strikes in Pakistan have all taken place in Datta Khel. Five Taliban were killed in a strike on Sept. 6. Nine Taliban fighters, including a commander known as Inayatullah, were killed in a strike on a compound in Datta Khel on Sept. 3. And eight Taliban fighters were killed in a strike on a compound and a vehicle in Datta Khel on Sept. 4.

With today’s strikes, the US has carried out 61 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 61 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.]

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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8 Comments

  • ArneFufkin says:

    The tempo of drone engagements has really picked up this past week. Interesting.

  • Mike says:

    Bill,
    I see you’re using ‘militants’ now in place of terrorists as you used to write. I get the sarcasm, but why the change? Did I miss something?

  • JT says:

    With 4 strikes in less than two days, this looks like the biggest spike yet. Maybe a HVT is known to be in the area?

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Mike,
    I’m just quoting the Pakistani reports. Sometimes they use “rebels” and they used to say “miscreants” (my personal favorite, which seems to have gone out of vogue).

  • jeandon says:

    Mike, thanks for your astute comments on the all important semantics. The correct term is mass-murderers. Cheers, Don V.

  • Dan A says:

    Wow, they must really want someone dead……

  • kp says:

    I think in this case case they’re disrupting the Haqqani network (and their external ops in Pakistan). It could be that their after TTP external ops too. But given some of the recent success again the HN in Afghanistan one thinks that intel there might be helping in North Waziristan. They want these guys out of the fight in Afghanistan.

    Another possibility is that the CIA is following funerals again. I’ve suggested this for previous patterns in strikes with attacks ever other day. Perhaps related to the requirement to bury Muslims in 24 hours: kill some; watch the clean up; track the bodies to their burial; then track the buriers back to their own home locations. It’s probably not that simple (the HN must have learnt something) but focusing on a fundamental belief as a vulnerability is often useful: they either have to give up a ritual (which perhaps might indicate to them which side “inshallah” is trending) or they stick to their beliefs and reveal intel to get hit. The connectivity revealed in passing the bodies around and burying them would also reveal the connectivity of their org (and their supporters).

    I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of sources there too but the intensity of these attacks (and the different locations) would mean quite a range of “spies”. It might be a mix but I suspect this is HUMINT perhaps to identify an initial target and IMGINT and SIGINT that keeps the attacks rolling.

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