US Predators kill 21 in South Waziristan strikes

US Predators struck for the first time in a week, in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of South Waziristan today, killing 21 “militants” in two attacks, according to reports from the region.

In the first strike, the remotely-piloted Predators or the more deadly Reapers fired four missiles at a vehicle traveling in the village of Ghalmandi Panga in the Birmal area of South Waziristan. Eight “militants” were killed in the strike, according to Reuters.

The second strike targeted a Taliban camp that was described as “a big compound which was used as [a] training center” in the town of Mantoi, about 20 miles north of Wana. Thirteen more “militants” were killed in the second strike.

The strikes took place in an area close to the border of North Waziristan that is used by fighters loyal to Taliban commanders Hafiz Gul Bahadar and Mullah Nazir, as well as by the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan.

Also today, in North Waziristan a Taliban commander named Shakirullah Shakir was reported to have been gunned down while riding a motorcycle near Miramshah. Shakir is a spokesman for the Fedayeen-e-Islam, the suicide squad for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. Shakir has claimed that the Fedayeen-e-Islam executed suicide attacks in Lahore in September 2010 and January 2011. Most recently, Shakir boasted that more than 1,000 suicide bombers were training at three camps in the Mir Ali area of North Waziristan.

The Predator strikes, by the numbers

Today’s strikes are the first in Pakistan’s tribal areas since June 20, when Predators hit a Taliban training camp in the Kurram agency. The US has carried out 12 strikes in Pakistan this month, exceeding the previous monthly high of nine strikes in January. There were 3 strikes in February, seven in March, two in April, and seven in May. The previous four months, from September to December 2010, averaged almost 16 strikes per month (21 in September, 16 in October, 14 in November, and 12 in December).

So far this year, the US has carried out 40 strikes in Pakistan, and is well off the pace of the 117 attacks that took place in 2010. In 2010, the US more than doubled the number of strikes that had occurred in 2009; by late August 2010, the US had exceeded 2009’s strike total of 53 with a strike in Kurram. 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 – 2011.]

In 2010 the strikes were concentrated almost exclusively in North Waziristan, where the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, the Haqqani Network, al Qaeda, and a host of Pakistani and Central and South Asian terror groups are based. All but 13 of the 117 strikes took place North Waziristan. Of the 13 strikes occurring outside of North Waziristan in 2010, seven were executed in South Waziristan, five were in Khyber, and one was in Kurram. This year, an increasing number of strikes are taking place in South Waziristan. So far in 2011, 25 of the 40 strikes have taken place in North Waziristan, 14 strikes have occurred in South Waziristan, and one more took place in Kurram.

Since Sept. 1, 2010, the US has conducted 101 strikes in Pakistan’s tribal agencies. The bulk of those attacks have aimed at the terror groups in North Waziristan, with 81 strikes in the tribal agency. Many of the strikes have targeted cells run by the Islamic Jihad Group, which have been plotting to conduct Mumbai-styled terror assaults in Europe. A Sept. 8 strike killed an IJG commander known as Qureshi, who specialized in training Germans to conduct attacks in their home country.

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. The campaign has been largely successful in focusing on terrorist targets and avoiding civilian casualties, as recently affirmed by the Pakistani military.

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 – 2011.

Updated to include new information on second strike, as well as new casualty figures.

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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  • villiger says:

    Bill, would/could the predators be used for recce purposes beyond Waziristan to track their nuclear weaponry? Is this done via satellite? Do you reckon the US has a fix on locations (by pure guess, one would’ve thought so, after all these years of being in the neighborhood, or is that a stupid assumption?)?

  • faloughi says:

    more good news and a hit on shakirullah…
    just to bring it to Bill’s or the editors attention –
    “The US has carried out 11 strikes in Pakistan this year, exceeding the previous monthly high of nine strikes in January.”
    – it’s a small thing, but just want to help out…
    thanks for all of the great work with this site!

  • David Verbryke says:

    I imagine this strike was aimed at Hekimullah Mehsud and his Harkut-ul-Mujahadeen party. He was nearly killed before and he may have been killed here. He is known to live in South Waziristan and the Khyber and Kunnar Districts. He was probably the target if I would guess.

  • Barry Larking says:

    Thanks for the informative links. From all the negative comments on President Obama in the U.S. media I read, one would never guess he ordered such a firestorm on the terrorists heads. As I recall the Daily Telegraph (that London) reported last year that special operations had also accounted for more than 350 leading and medium level Taliban commanders and more than 1300 foot soldiers. That detail just does not seem to make the headlines.


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