US Predators kill 6 in al Qaeda safe haven in North Waziristan

US Predators struck again in the Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan, killing four “militants.”

Unmanned US Predator strike aircraft, or the more deadly Reapers, fired two missiles today at a compound in the village of Sirai Darpay Khel near the Miramshah bazaar in North Waziristan. Miramshah is the largest town in North Waziristan. Pakistani intelligence officials said that six “militants” were killed, according to Dawn.

No senior Taliban, Haqqani Network, or al Qaeda leaders were reported killed in the strike. Miramshah is in the sphere of influence of the Haqqani Network, an al Qaeda-linked Taliban group led by mujahedeen commander Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Siraj.

The compound is said to have been used by terrorists involved in an al Qaeda plot modeled after the Mumbai terror assault that was to target several major European cities. The plot is said to have been ordered by Osama bin Laden.

Today’s strikes takes place as the US is seeking to disrupt al Qaeda’s European plot. The US has been pounding targets in the Data Khel, Miramshah, and Mir Ali areas of North Waziristan in an effort to kill members involved in European plot.

The US carried out a second strike today, in Mir Ali. Six “militants” were reported killed in the attack.

The Predator strikes, by the numbers

The pace of the strikes since the beginning of September is unprecedented since the US began the air campaign in Pakistan in 2004. The 21 strikes in September is a record number, and with five strikes already this month, the US appears to be prepared to match last month’s pace. The previous high was 11 strikes in January 2010, after the Taliban and al Qaeda executed a successful suicide attack at Combat Outpost Chapman that targeted CIA personnel who were active in gathering intelligence for the Predator campaign in Pakistan. In the bombing at COP Chapman, seven CIA officials and a Jordanian intelligence officer were killed.

The US has carried out 80 attacks inside Pakistan this year, which is more than double the number of strikes in Pakistan just two years ago. The US exceeded last year’s strike total of 53 with a strike in Kurram in late August. 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 nine of this year’s 80 strikes have taken place in North Waziristan. Of the nine strikes that have occurred outside of North Waziristan, seven took place in South Waziristan, one occurred in Khyber, and one took place in Kurram.

The US campaign in northwestern Pakistan has targeted top al Qaeda leaders, al Qaeda’s external operations network, and Taliban leaders and fighters who threaten both the Afghan and Pakistani states as well as support al Qaeda’s external operations. [For a list of al Qaeda and Taliban leaders killed in the US air campaign in Pakistan, see LWJ Special 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 multiple 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. Over the past year, Siraj Haqqani and his military commander, Mullah Sangeen Zadran, have been the targets of several strikes. 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. Pakistani intelligence officials claimed that Saifullah, a Haqqani Network military commander in Afghanistan and a cousin of Siraj, was killed in the Sept. 14 strike in Qutabkhel.

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 intentions of moving in North Waziristan.

Correction: the initial article indicated the strike took place in Mir Ali. This page has been updated to reflect the strike took place in Miramshah.

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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2 Comments

  • Rhyno327 says:

    There is news now of negotiations. Could this program be one of the reasons? They are now pouring it on it seems, and no matter wat we do, the P-stani populace will hate us anyway.

  • doug says:

    maybe you should call them “not-so-safe” havens in North Waziristan.

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