Unmanned US drones struck in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan for the second time in 24 hours, killing four “militants,” including a senior Taliban leader linked to al Qaeda.
Pakistani intelligence officials said that Badr Mansoor, a Taliban commander with close ties to al Qaeda, was killed in the strike. Mansoor rain training camps in the area and sent fighters to battle NATO and Afghan forces across the border, according to AFP. One Pakistani official told AFP that Mansoor was al Qaeda’s chief in Pakistan. A US intelligence official said he was a member of al Qaeda’s leadership council for Pakistan.
The Haqqani Network, a Taliban group that operates in North Waziristan as well as in eastern Afghanistan, administers the area where today’s attack took place. Al Qaeda leaders and operatives, who are closely allied with the Haqqani Network, shelter in the area, as do other terror groups.
The strike is the second in 24 hours. Earlier today, the CIA-operated drones killed 10 Haqqani Network and Central Asian fighters in an attack on a compound in the village of Tappi, just outside of Miramshah.
The US has carried out five strikes in North Waziristan since Jan. 11. All five strikes took place in and around Miramshah. The Jan. 11 strike was the first in 55 days. The program was put on hold following a clash between US forces and Pakistani Frontier Corps troops on the border of the Afghan province of Kunar and the Pakistani tribal area of Mohmand on Nov. 25-26. The 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 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].
The Jan. 11 strike killed Aslam Awan, a deputy to the leader of al Qaeda’s external operations network. Awan was a Pakistani citizen from Abbottabad, the same town where Osama bin Laden was killed by US forces in a cross-border raid in May 2011. Awan is the most senior al Qaeda leader killed in a drone strike since mid-October, when Abu Miqdad al Masri, a member of al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis who also was involved in al Qaeda’s external operations, was killed. [For a list of senior terrorist leaders and operatives killed in drone strikes, see LWJ report, Senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders killed in US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2012.]
Abu Zubaydah al Lubnani, a Lebanese al Qaeda operative who operates along the Afghan-Pakistani border, has said that while the drones have “delayed some operations or even stopped them,” the terror group is still functioning in the region.
“I want here to confirm that Qaedat al-Jihad is still standing in Khorasan, solid and strong, despite what hit it, and it is still producing operations and it doesn’t know the path of despair…,” Lubnani said in statement that was recently released on jihadist forums. The statement was translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.