The US carried out two airstrikes in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan today, killing 14 terrorists, including five “foreigners.”
The first strike took place in the the village of Ghulam Khan in the Miramshah area. Unmanned Predators or the heavily armed Reapers fired one missile at a vehicle and another at a compound in the village, killing nine “militants,” The Associated Press reported.
The second strike targeted a vehicle in the village of Maizer in the Datta Khel area, killing five “foreigners,” a term used to described Arab and Central Asian al Qaeda operatives. Two missiles were fired at the vehicle.
No senior al Qaeda or Taliban fighters have been killed in either of the strikes.
The Miramshah area 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 Afghan Taliban’s top four commands; he sits on the Taliban’s Quetta Shura; and he is also is a member of al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis. The Haqqanis are based on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border.
The US has targeted Siraj and other top-level Haqqani Network commanders since 2008. On Feb. 18 of this year, the US killed Mohammed Haqqani, another of the 12 sons of Jalaluddin Haqqani, in an airstrike in Danda Darpa Khel just outside Miramshah. Mohammed served as a military commander for the Haqqani Network. Siraj is believed to be sheltering in the neighboring tribal agency of Kurram to avoid the Predators.
The Datta Khel area is administered by Hafiz Gul Bahadar, the Taliban commander for North Waziristan. Bahadar also provides shelter to top al Qaeda leaders as well as terrorists from numerous Pakistani and Central Asian terror groups.
Datta Khel serves as a command and control center for al Qaeda’s top leaders. Several of al Qaeda’s top commanders, including Mustafa Abu Yazid, the chief financial official and commander in Afghanistan, and Abdullah Said al Libi, the commander of al Qaeda’s military, have been killed in Predator strikes in Datta Khel in the last year. [For more information on al Qaeda’s presence in Datta Khel, see LWJ report, Latest US Predator strike kills 5 in al Qaeda hub in North Waziristan.]
The Predator strikes, by the numbers
Today’s strikes make for six US attacks in Pakistan in seven days. On Nov. 1, a strike in Mir Ali, a large town in North Waziristan, killed six “militants,”while three strikes on Nov. 3 killed 13 more.
The pace of the strikes since the beginning of September is unprecedented since the US began the air campaign in Pakistan in 2004. September’s record number of 21 strikes was followed by 16 strikes in October. The previous monthly 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 97 attacks inside Pakistan this year, which is more than double the number of strikes in Pakistan just two years ago. A few months 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 a total of 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 97 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.]
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