US Predators strike 3 targets in South Waziristan

Updated to include new information on strikes and casualties.

Unmanned Predators or the more deadly Reapers launched attacks today in three separate areas of South Waziristan that are under Taliban control. Seven “Punjabi Taliban” terrorists, as well as Arabs, Uzbeks, and a Turk, are reported to be among those killed.

The first strike took place at a compound in Shalam Raghzai in the Wana area of South Waziristan, according to The New York Times. The second strike hit a “suspected militant compound” in Wacha Dana, just seven miles outside of Wana. The third strike hit a vehicle in the village of Darnashtra in the Shawal area.

Eighteen people have been reported killed in the three strikes. No senior Taliban or al Qaeda leaders have been reported killed at this time, but a number of foreigners are said to be among those killed.

“Most of those killed in the drone strikes are said to be foreigners,” a Pakistani intelligence official told The New York Times. “Their nationalities are described to be Arabs, Uzbeks and at least one Turk.”

Seven “Punjabi Taliban” were said to have been killed in one of the strikes, according to Reuters. The term ‘Punjabi Taliban’ is used to describe al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists from Pakistani groups such as the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, and Jaish-e-Mohammed. Many leaders and members of these terror groups are known to shelter in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

Today’s strikes are the first since the June 2 strike that is thought to have killed Ilyas Kashmiri, who leads al Qaeda military forces in the region and is one of three members of al Qaeda’s external operations council, which is assigned to directing attacks against the US and Western allies. Kashmiri is one of the most hunted al Qaeda leaders in the Afghan-Pakistan border area. Ustadz Ahmed Farooq, the head of propaganda operations for al Qaeda in Pakistan, is also thought to be among those killed in the strike.

“Good Taliban” leader Mullah Nazir also an al Qaeda leader

Both the June 2 strike and today’s attacks took place in areas controlled by Mullah Nazir, the leader of the Taliban in the Waziri tribal areas in South Waziristan. Nazir has openly supported Taliban emir Mullah Omar and al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, and wages jihad in Afghanistan. In an interview with the Asia Times, Nazir rejected claims that he opposed al Qaeda, and affirmed that he considered himself to be a member of the global terror organization.

“Al Qaeda and the Taliban are one and the same,” Nazir said. “At an operational level we might have different strategies, but at the policy level we are one and the same…. This is wrong that I am anti-al Qaeda. I am part of al Qaeda.”

Pakistan’s military and intelligence services consider Nazir and his followers “good Taliban” as they do not openly seek the overthrow of the Pakistani state.

In the summer of 2009, the military signed a peace agreement with Nazir stipulating that he would not shelter al Qaeda or members of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, which were based in the Mehsud tribal areas of South Waziristan. The Pakistani government launched a military operation against the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan in October 2009, but left Nazir’s areas untouched. Nazir has continued to allow the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, al Qaeda, and other terror groups safe haven in his tribal areas.

Significantly, more senior al Qaeda leaders have been killed in Nazir’s tribal areas during the US air campaign than in those of any other Taliban leader in Pakistan. Nazir also shelters the Mehsuds from the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, in violation of the peace agreement with the Pakistani government.

In the past, the US has killed several senior al Qaeda leaders in Nazir’s territories. One of the most senior al Qaeda leaders killed was Midhat Mursi al Sayyid Umar, who is better known as Abu Khabab al Masri. Abu Khabab was killed along with four members of his staff in a Predator strike on July 28, 2008.

Two other top al Qaeda leaders killed while in Nazir’s care were Osama al Kini (Fahid Mohammed Ally Msalam), al Qaeda’s operations chief in Pakistan; and Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan, one of al Kini’s senior aides. Both men were wanted by the US for their involvement in the 1998 suicide attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

In another strike in Nazir’s territory, US Predators also killed Abu Hazwa Jawfi, who is said to have led Jundallah, a Pakistani terror group that is based in Karachi and maintains close ties with al Qaeda.

The Predator strikes, by the numbers

The US has carried out four strikes this month. The US has also launched four strikes in South Waziristan since May 10, when the Predators killed four terrorists, including three “Arabs,” in the town of Angoor Adda in South Waziristan.

The US has carried out 11 Predator strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas since US Navy SEALs and CIA operatives raided Osama bin Laden’s safehouse in Abbottabad, far from Pakistan’s tribal areas, on the early morning of May 2.

The US has carried out 32 strikes in Pakistan so far this year, and is well off the pace of the 2010 total of 117 attacks. 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. That trend is largely holding true this year, but an increasing number of strikes are taking place in South Waziristan. So far in 2011, 23 of the 32 strikes have taken place in North Waziristan; the other nine strikes have occurred in South Waziristan.

Since Sept. 1, 2010, the US has conducted 92 strikes in Pakistan’s tribal agencies. The bulk of those attacks have aimed at the terror groups in North Waziristan, with 74 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.

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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  • Justin says:

    there is a report that the death toll is up to 12 in a 2nd strike. Keep the good intel flowing. I feel as if we got some more HVT’S or as close to HV as one can get. Wana seems to be a hot spot for HVT’s

  • villiger says:

    What does it tell you about Pak’s claim of sovereignty if they can’t get in there after a major attack and check out the scene. And that too in South Waziristan which they’re supposed to have cleared out in 2009!!??

  • NRP kept their books open longer on the 5th and report three drone attacks sixteen dead infidel muslims. At:
    Wucha Dana 7
    Dra Nishter 4
    Unknown Muslim Seminary 5
    Great Day for the drone strike force, a Tip of the Hat to each of them.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Al, Sometimes we must sleep. The entry was updated accordingly. NYT is saying 18 killed BTW.

  • Yin says:

    Bill, I leant from CNN that pakistan PM said US had confirmed Kashmiri’s death, but there is no word from US govt. That’s really strange….. this is the CNN link:

  • JRP says:

    Deception, sometimes incredibly complex deceptive schemes, have been part of history. Is it possible that Kashmiri went so far as to have a group of loyal followers volunteer to be targeted by a drone strike so that it could then subsequently be claimed that Kashmiri was one of those killed?
    These thoughts can drive institutions to a kind of paranoia that is very self-destructive. The Nazis did it to Stalin in the late 30s and about 40 or so years ago James Angleton’s molehunt was very destructive within the CIA.
    Right now it appears that there is some backing off on the death of Kashmiri story. If it does turn out to be a very elaborate hoax, the reason behind it may have less to do with Kashmiri trying to protect himself than with the desire of some to cast doubt on the death of OBL story.
    One thing is for certain and that is that we are dealing with exceptionally cunning and deceptive people. I keep harking back to the December 30, 2009 FOB Chapman disaster, because it is proof that these people cannot be trusted due to their intense religious zealotry. Nothing, absolutely nothing is off-limits for them. From AQ and Taliban’s POV this is war without any rules of engagement whatsoever.

  • Tyler says:

    Ironic that Uzbek jihadists are being killed in Nazir’s territory. The Pakistani military had always maintained that Nazir was worth having as a friend because he was opposed to the IMU and its splinter factions.

  • Gitsum says:

    Pound ’em further into the stone-age. Way to go, keep up the pressure.

  • gandalf says:

    Rumors of a 4th strike and a very high value target degraded.

  • Charu says:

    Pakistan’s Interior Minister recently upped his estimate from 98% sure to 100% sure that Kashmiri was killed. Now if only he was 400% sure……

  • James says:

    Who does that guy think he is to be speaking on behalf of the US government? And, why does CNN so foolishly echo his words to make them to appear so ‘official.’
    As a matter of fact, the first paragraph of the article contradicts even the title.
    Of course, I could be wrong but we should not engage in wishful thinking on the hoped for demise of such a dangerous individual.

  • kp says:

    It’s interesting to try think about the locations of today’s strikes (compared to the June 2 strike). One problem is that it’s really difficult to find them on maps (and there even seems to be either contradictory infomation or tranlitoration errors (shades of the earlier German “Mackenzie” becoming Makansi).

    The first at 2am in Shalam Raghzai, 10 kilometres (six miles) northwest of Wana; the second at 6am in Wacha Dana, 12km NW of Wana and the third a vehicle (in the village of Darnashtra in the Shawal area or Bray Nishtar area (another translitteration problem?) at 10:45am) near the North Waziristan border “about 30 kilometres from the site of the other two raids”. Kashmiri was killed at Shokai Naray, located near Karikot and Ghwakhwa villages about 10km W of Wana.

    There is some confusion in where places are e.g. AFP reports claims the first two strikes are south of Ghwakhwa (which doesn’t match the rest of their report and other reports). They’re almost due north. Same with Darnashtra/Bray Nishtar though the Pakistanis have been fighting Taliban and others there since last year in Sharwal.

    So I would guess the first two strikes (a couple of hours apart and static targets at night) are more likely to be connected to the IK strike but the latter might be a targeting a cross-border insurgent group.

    Locals are even making comments about IK arrival from NW (or before that Khyber agency both to the north of SW), increased drone activity over SW and of a jirga that seemed to know about IK and perhaps others coming in from NW and not being happy about it.

    Talking to The News from somewhere in South Waziristan, the Taliban commanders said Ilyas Kashmiri had come to Wana a few days ago from North Waziristan on the advice of his friends and well-wishers as they had heard the Pakistan government was going to launch military operation there. They said Ilyas Kashmiri and all others killed with him in the drone attack had been laid to rest in Wana.

    He said the CIA has increased the number of drones flying in their area after killing Ilyas Kashmiri, which meant that they thought senior level militants had left North Waziristan and taken shelter in South Waziristan. He said Maulvi Nazeer too was shocked over Ilyas Kashmiri

  • Vienna,07-06-2011
    These missiles apart, identities of the killed and cash reward
    who should collect is the question. The trust deficit may lead
    to Ilyas Kashmiri ruling from a safe fortification in Islamabad
    or Rawalpindi. It is all possible when interests do not converge,
    I claim you accept my claim lots of civilians are dead.Why
    should Pakistanis love America?That simple.
    -Kulamarva Balakrishna

  • sports says:

    @kulamarva balakrishna
    PS – A few days ago I observed a discussion where a person said, “The truth we don’t want to hear or understand is the truth that will set us free”.
    I see Pakistan as a failed state and it will remain a failed state until it overcomes it’s denial of who it is and get real with the rest of the World.

  • Villiger says:

    kulamarva, your comment is filled with such intrigue that i must request you to please translate it into English.
    I’m afraid the only viennese i understand is the Sacher Torte which of itself, as you might be aware, is a highly controversial subject 🙂 Although of a different order to the recent MI5 cup-cake recipes!

  • Soccer says:

    Mullah Nazir organizes soccer tournaments and charity drives for the people of SWA. That’s what Shahzad wrote about once. I guess the ISI considers him too much of an asset to let him die.
    But oh well, with what I heard Mullah Nazir does for the people, at least it’s better than turning them into suicide bombing cannon fodder and killing them. But don’t take my words as fact, I read that article in the Asia Times 2 weeks ago and I’m not sure where it is now considering Shahzad’s death.

  • villiger says:

    Bill, here’s an article from The Times of India quoting Col Dave Lapan:
    “The department of defence has no confirmation (on the death of Kashmiri),” he noted when told that Pakistan PM Yousaf Raza Gilani said today that the US has confirmed the death of Kashmiri.”
    Would you care to comment why this has not been reported in the US MSM? It baffles me how the PTI picks up this stuff, but the US media gives it a total miss!?
    I assume just because the DoD doesn’t have confirmation, its not that the CIA also doesn’t. And
    then because it was a drone, maybe the CIA doesn’t want to declare it? Although this is nothing to do with the lack of media reports on Lapan’s statement.
    Kashmiri dead or alive? Gilani says yes, US says no
    kp, note that Obama did acknowledge the possibility of a drone strike in the aftermath of UBL’s killing.

  • kp says:

    @Villager: “kp, note that Obama did acknowledge the possibility of a drone strike in the aftermath of UBL’s killing.”

    I have no idea what that means or what you are trying to say.

  • tb says:

    I notice guys like “Kulamarva Balakrishna” make one comment, but are unwilling or unable to answer any followups. I’m starting to discount anything anyone from Pakistan says. Be a man (or woman) and debate the issues in this arena.

  • kp says:

    More details on the targets of the three strikes:

    Five killed in the first strike were all Punjabi Taliban.

    Second strike killed “eight militants” (affiliation unspecified) but of these five militants seem to be central Asian origin (IMU?) plus three locals (given the totals in the article).

    The third strike on the vehicle killed three “Punjabi Taliban from the group of Hafiz Gul Bahadar” from North Waziristan.

    The CIA helping out the ISI, perhaps?

  • villiger says:

    kp, sorry for the confusion.
    You had said earlier:
    “No word from the US government for a CIA drone strike that they don’t acknowledge exists is not really strange. It’s SOP.”
    I was merely trying to say that Obama in his interviews discussed the option of a drone strike on UBL, thereby acknowledging that the program exists.

  • Scott says:

    IMHO: When we exit Afganistan (hopefully very soon) we should make a trip through Waziristan on our way out, airforce/navy/nato planes first, then army and all of our “in-country” ground + helicopter assets (through in a few wart hogs for support), and then airforce again for good measure (keeping full air coverage at all times as we leave this region). We can keep the drones going without all these assests on the ground.

  • Vienna,08-06-2011
    My dear villager, intrigue as far as I know English origin and
    is all pervasive today.How can you avoid it is the question.
    I know the controversy but which Sacher Torte, you are talking
    about original,with rum, or the wash list kurt vareity that
    made you kill Yugoslavia to create Kosovo republic. I am
    sorry we have come to such a pass we as uneducated have
    to translate English to “English mother tongue” professionals.
    -Kulamarva Balakrishna

  • Vienna,08-06-2011
    Dear tb, unable is the right word in this world full of events
    unexplained. How do you expect a sick old man follow up
    every thing that an all powerful CIA is engaged in isolating
    and making sense.-Kulamarva Balaakrishna

  • Barry Larking says:

    I’ll believe Kashmiri is dead when I see his head on a plate. Please.
    The increase in strikes points to the U.S. having had a bonanza haul in Abbottabad. Possibly …
    RJP above is correct that deception is a key feature in all this. During the Second World War Italian radio announced that one of their generals aboard an aircraft had been shot down by the British over north Africa and killed. The R.A.F. promptly denied any knowledge of this event. Subtle, what?
    The Taliban are thought of as rotten shots by British squaddies but nevertheless the leadership is clever and must not be underestimated.
    Well done. Keep calm and carry on!


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