US Predators kill 13 terrorists in 3 strikes in North Waziristan

Unmanned US attack aircraft killed 13 terrorists in three airstrikes today in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan. The strikes took place in the Miramshah, Mir Ali, and Datta Khel areas, all known havens for al Qaeda and allied terror groups.

In the first strike, unmanned Predators or the heavily armed Reapers fired two missiles today at a vehicle traveling in Qutub Khel, a suburb of Miramshah, the main town in North Waziristan, AFP reported. The vehicle was “loaded with arms and ammunition” and detonated in a fireball, the news agency stated. Four “militants” were reported killed in the strike, but no senior al Qaeda or Taliban commanders have been reported killed.

US Predators launched a similar attack in Qutub Khel on Sept. 14, when two missiles destroyed a vehicle and killed four terrorists.

In the second strike, Predators struck another vehicle in the village of Khaiso Khel in the Datta Khel Area. Five “militants” were reported killed, according to CNN.

In the third strike, yet another vehicle was targeted by Predators, this time in the Mir Ali area. Four “militants” were reported killed in the attack.

Miramshah, Datta Khel, and Mir Ali are terrorist strongholds in Pakistan

Today’s strikes take place as the US is seeking to disrupt a plot by al Qaeda modeled after the Mumbai terror assault. Al Qaeda operatives have been planning to carry out a terror assault targeting several major European cities. The plot is said to have been ordered by Osama bin Laden.

The US has been pounding targets in the Datta Khel, Miramshah, and Mir Ali areas of North Waziristan in an effort to kill members involved in the European plot. Al Qaeda and allied terror groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Islamic Jihad Group, the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and a number of Pakistani and Central and South Asian terror groups host or share camps in the region.

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.

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 Mir Ali area is in the sphere of influence of Abu Kasha al Iraqi, an al Qaeda leader who serves as a key link to the Taliban and supports al Qaeda’s external operations network. Mir Ali is a known hub for al Qaeda’s military and external operations councils. Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Bahadar and the Haqqani Network also operate in the Mir Ali area.

Since Sept. 8, a total of 16 Germans and two Britons have been reported killed in Predator strikes in the Mir Ali area. The Europeans were members of the Islamic Jihad Group, an al Qaeda affiliate based in the Mir Ali area. The IJU members are believed to be involved in a recently discovered al Qaeda plot that targeted several major European cities and was modeled after the terror assault on the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008.

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 leader Hafiz Gul Bahadar. The Haqqanis and Bahadar are considered “good Taliban” by the Pakistani military establishment as they do not carry out attacks inside Pakistan.

The Predator strikes, by the numbers

Today’s strikes make for four US attacks in Pakistan in three days. On Nov. 1, a strike in Mir Ali, a large town in North Waziristan, killed six “militants.

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 95 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 95 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.]

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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  • BullsEye says:

    “The vehicle was “loaded with arms and ammunition” and detonated in a fireball”
    Wow! Can it get any better than this?! I can’t suppress similar images in my head from Chuck Norris movies!
    Now that’s what one calls undeniable proof: “detonated in a fireball”

  • David says:

    Unless Hekmatyar, Osama Bin Laden, the two Haqqanis, Zawahiri and Mullah Omar are killed in these drone strikes, they are absolutely useless.
    I wonder why after all these years, we can never seem to get even close to these guys.

  • Villiger says:

    With over 60 killed and 300 injured on an ordinary Wednesday in Baghdad, today, the Iraq war can hardly be pronounced dead until al Qaeda is truly, actually destroyed.
    That by definition means getting them in Pakistan. Obama will be visiting his infamous ally’s neighbour this weekend. His 3-day trip to India will allegedly cost US tax-payers $600 million. (Little wonder that Pakistan scoffs at an extra $2 billion, and is not adequately impressed to do its bidding full-on.) Yet, Obama and the US could get value for their money by doing some serious listening while he is in India.
    Personally, i think he is in awe of Manmohan Singh–they both share a certain quality of statesmanship.
    It will be interesting to see what of that feeds into the December strategic review. Although certain plausible strategic options, for example to tug on the Baluchi rug, are hardly likely to show up in a press briefing. Point is there are going to be some very candid conversations in New Delhi.
    It is in the nature of this highly complexed Pakistani beast and the massively convoluted relationship that Uncle Sam shares with her that, ultimate solutions are not going to be of a simple cookie-cutter variety nor perfumed with plain vanilla. This is one bloody sore, or did Obama say cancer, that has every dynamic that you can think of–power, political, military, nuclear, war and terror, religion and culture, money and corruption– at play and in the grip of extraordinary and prolonged tensions.
    Aside, just in case Ilyas Kashmiri and his cronies have any plans for disrupting the show, the drones could be busy and on high alert in Waziristan the next several days.

  • blert says:

    Nothing could be simpler: they are ISI assets. Their mere survival produces a fount of revenue for Islamabad.
    You don’t have to make it any more complicated than that. The LAST thing ISI wants is an end to conflict. That would cut off their money, power and prestige. Doh!
    We are being fed expendables — no names who do not satisfy the political requirements of Washington but whom are evidence of ‘cooperation’ enough to keep the money coming.
    Islamabad’s internal agitprop has all of the locals enraged. They are led to believe that all of the carnage is the craft of Crusaders, Hindus and Jews. Really!
    Thusly, no connection between Islamabad/ISI and the civilian death toll is made. ISI has got their public conned into thinking that their blowback is of our agency!
    OBL is almost certainly at room temperature. Neither ISI nor the CIA wants to acknowledge his passing due to natural causes. The big send off did get published on the front page of the NY Times — years ago — captioned as merely some big shot AQ guy. The fact that OBL’s Black Guard was in ranked attendance did not merit mention!
    Subsequent to that date, the Black Guard broke up and is now all over the place. Interesting, no?
    Some went back to Yemen, virtually all are Yemeni by blood, others staffed out 055, etc.
    As for Zawahiri, he’s almost certainly hiding directly under a fulsome haram, thusly able to shield himself behind the burka. All communications are by runner — probably girls.
    As for the rest, they are completely under the protection of ISI. They are shuttled around the country like princes.
    Take a look at the reportage by Bill Roggio here at the LWJ going back to the beginning.
    Last December I posted the extreme importance of Yemeni operations. Recent events demonstrate that the Black Guard and American traitors have assembled into a critical mass in Yemen.
    The bomb plot would have created at least as much havoc as 911. Their clear intention was to explode jumbo jets over major urban areas/ international airports.
    If we were NOT engaged in the War on Terrorist Operatives this attack would have succeeded, without a doubt.

  • Anthony says:

    Sometimes, I wonder if this isn’t just a testing ground for military technology in preparation for something bigger.
    I know there are reasons for being there, and not the ones that are given to the public, but I wonder about the predator drones specifically. I seriously doubt they are all that effective, but they might be ‘beta’ testing these things for future conflicts.

  • JRP says:

    David . . . I’m with you 100%. I know the answer to this question and have posted it before. Immediately after 9/11 The President of the United States was supposed to do the following 2 things and in this order:
    1. Call Congress into full session and obtain a formal declaration of war against AQ.
    2. Invoke the draft and raise an Army.
    We know where all you’ve named are located . . . Pakistan. We have to pull our Ambassador; cut off all aid of every conceivable kind; post a nuclear-armed fleet near Pakistan as a deterrent to Pakistan’s gifting of nukes to AQ; Make a Kennedy-like declaration that any nuclear attack by AQ will be deemed a nuclear attack by Pakistan; our State Department ceases recognition of The Waziristans as Pakistani territory; we move into The Ws in force and wipe out AQ; we then return The Ws to Pakistani sovereignty. That’s what needs to occur and to occur before AQ figures out a way to smuggle & detonate A-Bombs from the Pak Arsenal on the U.S. mainland.

  • KaneKaizer says:

    David, have you even heard of the ISI yet?

  • crusader says:

    see my reply under Siraj Haqqani sheltering in Kurram, near area of US helicopter strikes
    there is an article about the talibans aa capability under the threat matrix as well

  • Civy says:

    Let’s hope that Mumbia style plot is executed in Dallas, LA, Miami or Detroit, and not SF, NYC or Chi-town.
    My vote would go to Dallas or Jacksonville, Fl. I’d give such an attack about a 10 minute lifespan in either place before the good-ole boys shot them to rags.

  • YZ says:

    Well KaneKaizer, blert, JRP, David, since we are dabbling in conspiracy theories, what about people in OUR government agencies that also don’t want to see OBL die, because doing so also will mean the end of their bottomless funding.

  • will says:

    While good-ole boys might make a good counter-attack, I think I’ll prefer the strategy where we just keep blowing them up in another country.
    But as events from Yemen show, regardless of how successful attacks in the af-pak region may be, we do face an enemy with a wide range of locations.

  • David says:

    YZ, I am not into ANY conspiracies here. Only replies from other users lean towards conspiracy like views.
    It’s possible they could know where he is and choose not to take him out, because then that would be a symbolic end to the war on terror and all the funding these contractors and the military receive. But I hope that’s not the case, because all these guys are dangerous psychopaths that need to be killed ASAP.

  • madashell59 says:

    JRP: Although some of your comments run true we cannot forget that AQ, Taliban and other terror groups are funded and controlled by some leading organization. What and who that is debateble. I think it is Iran who seem to be the only country or organization this is clearly being controlled by religous rulers and have their hands in every islamist terror group.
    It was the reason why we took out Saddam Hussein (used terror groups) and why we are trying to control Afganistan’s and Pakistan’s groups.
    As for Anthony’s comments about “preparation for something bigger”. I believe so and that is Iran.
    One of the biggest things the US and the world learned after 9/11 was how bad and how little intelligence we had in the Middle East. That is changing at an exponential rate. Why do you think Iran keeps on arresting so called spies.
    As for David’s comments if they know that Usama has moved back from Iran then maybe they have some intelligence that they are moving him like a shell game for safety and propaganda. They might get lucky. They may also get him to stay in one place for too long if it is dangerous for him to move.
    All just theories of course.

  • David says:

    madashell59, I remember reading an intelligence report, and then another one, saying that they caught an associate of Bin Laden’s, and he says that Bin Laden and his entire network are hiding in EASTERN AFGHANISTAN, switching between Kunar, Nuristan and Jalalabad provinces regularly.
    He also says that Bin Laden has travelled far into central and Northern Afghanistan many times since the invasion, to meet with Mullah Omar, and that the last time OBL and Mullah Omar met was in January 2009 in Helmand province.
    What do you think of this?

  • Charu says:

    @Civy, have you forgotten Columbine? It doesn’t take much to murder unarmed civilians and even 10 minutes at a Soldier Readiness Center at Fort Hood enabled one man to kill 13 and wound 30. It is better to stop them over there than here.

  • Eric L says:

    That conspiracy is blown out of the water by the fact that killing OBL would not end the war on terror (bottomless funding).
    That conspiracy is dead on gone.

  • Bear says:

    madashell59, one thing to remember about iran is that they don’t like the taliban and supported the northern alliance in the 90’s. the taliban targeted shia hazaras and other minorities because they weren’t sunni. that said, an enemy of an enemy is a friend, so iran is now helping them, but they are not natural allies and will never trust each other…

  • Nagarajnow says:

    However still OBL and Mullah Omar identities are untraceable. And at current position OBL has lost his leadership and Mullah Omar has no identity to live, then also why US army still stays in pakistan…

  • Render says:

    Crusader – Saw both (been busy). There is nothing in Matt’s article that I would disagree with or that disagree’s with the comment that I posted. Except to point out that the Taliban also use those light AA guns in the direct ground fire role on a regular basis.
    To answer what I remember of your follow on questions…
    Prior to Novemeber 2001 the Taliban used heavy tanks (T-55 or T-62 variants) and both tracked and wheeled light armored vehicles (BMP and BTR series). The Taliban also used towed field artillery up to and including 152mm, entirely of Russian or Chinese origin. The Taliban (and the Northern Alliance) tended to use their tanks as artillery rather then direct fire weapons.
    While none of that heavy equipment survived the arrival of US forces, all of it was either destroyed or captured, it should be assumed that at least some of the experienced Taliban vehicle and gun crews would have escaped into Pakistan at the time. Their only possible source for such replacement equipment would be the Pakistani government, either given or stolen.

  • ArneFufkin says:

    Colonel Galli, Commander of the 3rd Aviation Brigade deployed to RC-East was asked about Taliban ground threat in a briefing yesterday:
    Q Excuse me, Gordon Lubold from Politico. I just wonder if you could expand a little bit more about the threat and kind of how much danger your air assets are facing from Taliban on the ground.
    COL. GALLI: The threat that we face mainly deals with small arms and RPGs [rocket propelled grenade].

  • ArneFufkin says:

    Sorry, meant to address my comment here to the article about Taliban anti-aircraft procurements

  • Render says:
    Arne, you commented in that Youtube thread (and well said too). You already know better then what Col. Galli and Gordon Lubold are saying. The key word of course is, “mainly.”
    The Talib unit seen in that video has mounted two seperate twin 23mm AA guns in the beds of two seperate Ford Ranger pick-up trucks stolen from the ANP.
    The ANP do mount medium and heavy machine guns in their pick-ups from time to time, but I’ve yet to see any ANP using ZSU-23-2 twin mount guns.

  • Civy says:

    If you read the account of the attack on Mumbia you know that they gained their toe-hold for the operation by intimidating unarmed civilians at the docks. I assure you no such passive public exists in Jacksonville or Dallas.
    Yes, of course, it’s better to kill them there, but as I stated, assuming we fail, some US cities are helpless as sheep, some full of fangs and claws.
    If you’ve watched, or participated in a USPSA competition, you know one good man can take down a whole crew in 5-10 seconds. They weren’t wearing bullet-proof vests. There’s a big hole in the ground somewhere in Pa where a handful of good men stood up and said ‘NO”. Worse ways to go.


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