The US killed six “militants,” including foreigners, in the second drone strike in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal area of North Waziristan in two days, after a two-month lull in strikes.
Today’s strike took place in the village of Dogga near Miramshah, the main town in North Waziristan. The unmanned Predators or Reapers fired a pair of missiles at a vehicle in the village, Pakistani intelligence officials told Reuters.
“The missiles hit two cars that were heading towards the [Afghan] border. Several foreigners were in the cars, but we have no information on their nationalities yet,” an intelligence official told Reuters. Pakistani officials often use the term “foreigners” to describe members of al Qaeda and other non-Pakistani terror groups operating in the country.
Today’s strike takes place just one day after four “militants,” including three “Arabs,” were killed in a drone strike that hit a compound on the outskirts of Miramshah.
The Haqqani Network, a Taliban group that operates in North Waziristan as well as in eastern Afghanistan, administers the area where the strikes yesterday and today took place. Al Qaeda leaders and operatives, who are closely allied with the Haqqani Network, shelter in the area, as do other terror groups.
Yesterday’s strike was the first by the US in Pakistan in 55 days. The previous strike took place on Nov. 16, 2011. The pause was the longest since the program was ramped up at the end of July 2008 [see LWJ report, US drone strikes in Pakistan on longest pause since 2008, from Dec. 19, 2011].
The program was put on hold after US and Pakistan Frontier Corps troops clashed in the Afghan province of Kunar and the Pakistani tribal area of Mohmand on Nov. 25-26. US troops struck in Pakistan after taking mortar and machine gun fire on the Afghan side of the border from Pakistani troops. Twenty-four Pakistani Frontier Corps troops were killed.
The clash led to Pakistan’s closure of the border crossings in Chaman and Khyber to NATO supply columns destined for Afghanistan. In the aftermath of the Mohmand incident, Pakistan also threatened to shoot down US drones flying in Pakistani airspace and ejected US drones and personnel from the Shamsi Airbase in Baluchistan.
US officials told The Long War Journal on Dec. 12, 2011 that the program was put “on hold” due to tensions over the Mohmand incident, but that the drones would strike again if a high value terrorist target that could not be ignored was spotted.
The back-to-back strikes over the past two days signal that the moratorium on the drone program in Pakistan has now been lifted.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.