US Predators killed five people in an airstrike in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan.
The unmanned CIA-operated Predators, or the more deadly Reapers, fired several missiles at a compound in the bazaar in Miramshah, the main town in North Waziristan, according to Xinhua.
The identities of those killed have not been disclosed. No senior Taliban, Haqqani Network, or al Qaeda leaders are reported to have been killed.
The Miramshah area is administered by the Haqqani Network, a powerful Taliban subgroup. Hafiz Gul Bahadar, the top Taliban leader in North Waziristan, also has a presence in Miramshah.
The US has targeted top Haqqani Network leaders with the unmanned drones in Miramshah in the past. Jan Baz Zadran, whom US intelligence officials have described as the Haqqani Network’s third in command, was killed in a Predator strike in Danda Darpa Khel, just outside of Miramshah, on Oct. 13. Jan Baz is the most senior Haqqani Network leader killed or captured in either Pakistan or Afghanistan since the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001. He was killed just two weeks after the Haqqani Network’s top leader in Afghanistan was captured by US Special Operations forces in Paktia province.
The US has stepped up pressure on the Haqqani Network, which operates in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, and is linked to both al Qaeda and the Pakistani military and the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. The Haqqani Network supports and shelters a constellation of regional and international terror group groups in North Waziristan, and fights NATO and Afghan forces across the border [for more information on the Haqqani Network, see LWJ report, US adds senior Haqqani Network leader to terrorist list].
The Predator strikes, by the numbers
Today’s strike is first in Pakistan’s tribal areas in 11 days, and is just the second reported strike this month.
The US carried out nine drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas last month, killing several top al Qaeda, Taliban, and Haqqani Network commanders [see LWJ report, 2 senior al Qaeda leaders killed in recent drone strikes in Pakistan].
Over the past year, the pace of the US strikes has been uneven, but the monthly strike totals have generally decreased. From January through September 2011, the strikes in Pakistan were as follows: nine strikes in January, three in February, seven in March, two in April, seven in May, 12 in June, three in July, six in August, four in September, and nine in October. In the last four months of 2010, the US 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 64 strikes in Pakistan. In 2010, the US carried out 117 strikes, which was more than double 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 in South Waziristan, five were in Khyber, and one was in Kurram.
This year, that pattern has changed, as an increasing number of strikes are taking place in South Waziristan. So far in 2011, 22 of the 64 strikes have taken place in South Waziristan, 41 strikes were in North Waziristan, and one was 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. 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.
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