|A bunker at the Haqqani Network training camp in the district of Sar Rowzah District in Paktika province. ISAF photo.|
More than 80 Haqqani Network fighters, including several “foreign fighters,” have been killed during an operation in eastern Afghanistan that targeted a training camp.
Afghan officials said that the death toll in the operation in the Sar Rowzah district in Paktika province, which was first reported yesterday by the International Security Assistance Force, has risen to 80.
“The combined operation of Afghan and international troops have left 80 armed militants dead in Paktika province over the past three days,” a statement released by the provincial administration said, according to Xinhua.
Several “foreign fighters” were among those killed during the fighting, according to a report by Afghan Ariana TV. The US military uses the term ‘foreign fighters’ to describe members of al Qaeda and other terror groups operating in Afghanistan.
US military officials contacted by The Long War Journal said several of those killed were indeed “foreign fighters,” but the officials would not provide the identities or numbers of those killed. The vast majority of those killed were Haqqani Network fighters based in Pakistan’s tribal agency of North Waziristan. The Haqqani Network, which is supported by Pakistan’s military and intelligence services, maintains a safe haven in North Waziristan, and uses the tribal agency to stage attacks into Afghanistan as well as shelter and support al Qaeda leaders and fighters.
Yesterday, ISAF announced the operation against what it described as a Haqqani Network “encampment” and “training camp,” and initially claimed 50 fighters were killed during the day-long assault. ISAF said the “training camp” was used as “a staging area for Haqqani and foreign fighters” to conduct attacks throughout Afghanistan. [For more information the Paktika raid, see LWJ report, ISAF, Afghan troops strike Haqqani Network ‘encampment’ in east.]
ISAF released several photographs of the aftermath of the raid. The ISAF photos showed two crude bunkers as well as several images of the weapons seized during the operations.
Paktika province serves as a safe haven for the Haqqani Network, a Taliban subgroup with close ties to al Qaeda. Paktika province is run by Mullah Sangeen Zadran, who is the shadow governor. Mullah Sangeen is a senior lieutenant to Siraj Haqqani, the military commander of the Haqqani Network who serves on the top councils for al Qaeda and the Taliban.
Al Qaeda and allied groups maintain a presence in Paktika province, according to an investigation by The Long War Journal. US military press releases document the presence of al Qaeda and “foreign fighter” cells in the districts of Bermel, Sar Rowzah, Wor Mamay, Yahya Khel, Yosuf Khel, Zadran, and Ziruk; or seven of Paktika’s 18 districts.
Al Qaeda fighters are known to have been killed while fighting in Paktika. Most recently, in June, al Qaeda announced the death of Mahmoud Hamdan Nizal, a Jordanian who was known as Abu Dher al Urduni. Nizal was killed while attacking COP Margah, his martyrdom statement claimed.
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