US drones strike in Miramshah’s bazaar, kill 3 militants

US drones struck for the second time in 24 hours in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan.

Today’s strike, which took place in the early morning, targeted the fighters “on the first floor of a shop” in the bazaar in Miramshah, Pakistani officials told AFP. The remotely piloted Predators or Reapers fired a pair of missiles at the shop, killing three “militants.”

The identity of those killed was not disclosed, and no senior al Qaeda or Taliban leaders have been reported killed at this time.

Today’s airstrike occurred less than one day after US drones killed four more unidentified militants as they traveled in a vehicle in the town of Isha just outside of Miramshah.

Fourth strike in Miramshah’s bazaar since March 2010

The US has carried out at least three other airstrikes inside Miramshah’s bazaar since mid-May 2010. Two senior al Qaeda leaders have been killed in the three strikes.

The first strike in Miramshah’s bazaar took place on March 17, 2010, and killed Sadam Hussein Al Hussami, who is also known as Ghazwan al Yemeni, and three other al Qaeda operatives. Hussami was a protege of Abu Khabab al Masri, al Qaeda’s top bomb maker and WMD chief who was killed in a US airstrike in South Waziristan in July 2008. Hussami was training al Qaeda and Taliban fighters to conduct attacks in Afghanistan and outside the region, and was a key planner in the suicide attack on Combat Outpost Chapman that that killed seven CIA officials and a Jordanian intelligence officer. The slain intelligence operatives were involved in gathering intelligence for the hunt for al Qaeda and Taliban leaders along the Afghan-Pakistani border.

The next strike in the bazaar took place almost two years later, on Feb. 8, 2012. The US killed Badr Mansoor, a senior Taliban and al Qaeda leader, in a Feb. 8 strike in Miramshah’s bazaar. Mansoor ran training camps in the area and sent fighters to battle NATO and Afghan forces across the border, and linked up members of the Harakat-ul-Mujahideen with al Qaeda to fight in Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden described Mansoor as one of several commanders of al Qaeda’s “companies” operating in the tribal areas. He was later promoted to lead al Qaeda’s forces in the tribal areas.

The last strike in Miramshah’s bazaar took place on March 30, 2012. Four militants were reported to have been killed, however no senior terrorist leader was among them.

Miramshah serves as the headquarters of the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network, a powerful Taliban subgroup that operates in both Afghanistan and Pakistan and is supported by Pakistan’s military and its Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. The town serves as one of the “ground zeros” of terror groups based in North Waziristan, a US intelligence official has told The Long War Journal. Other main centers of terror activity in North Waziristan include Datta Khel, Mir Ali, and the Shawal Valley.

The Haqqani Network is one of four major Taliban groups that have joined the Shura-e-Murakeba, an alliance brokered by al Qaeda late last year. The Shura-e-Murakeba also includes Hafiz Gul Bahadar’s group; Mullah Nazir’s group; and the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, which is led by Hakeemullah Mehsud and his deputy, Waliur Rehman Mehsud. The members of the Shura-e-Murakeba agreed to cease attacks against Pakistani security forces, refocus efforts against the US, and end kidnappings and other criminal activities in the tribal areas.

Background on the US strikes in Pakistan

Today’s strike is the second in Pakistan since June 4, when the US killed Abu Yahya al Libi, one of al Qaeda’s top leaders, propagandists, and religious figures. Abu Yahya was killed in a strike on a compound in Mir Ali. Uzbek, Tajik, and Turkmen fighters belonging to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan were reportedly among the 14 terrorists killed along with Abu Yahya.

Yesterday, al Qaeda released a video of Abu Yahya that was produced sometime after November 2011. The video, which appears to have been taped long ago, addressed the Syrian revolution. Abu Yahya did not address reports of his death in the video. [See Threat Matrix reports, As Sahab releases video of Abu Yahya al Libi, and Al Qaeda suggests Abu Yahya al Libi is alive, promises video, for more details.]

The US has carried out 23 strikes in Pakistan so far this year. Five of the strikes have taken place this month; three were in North Waziristan and two more were in South Waziristan. Ten of this year’s 23 strikes in Pakistan have taken place since May 22, one day after the US failed to persuade Pakistan at the NATO summit in Chicago to reopen NATO’s supply lines to Afghanistan. [For data on the strikes, see LWJ reports, Charting the data for US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2012, and Senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders killed in US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2012.]

The drone program was scaled back dramatically from the end of March to the beginning of the fourth week in May. Between March 30 and May 22, the US conducted only three drones strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas as US officials attempted to renegotiate the reopening of NATO’s supply lines, which have been closed since the end of November 2011. Pakistan closed the supply lines following the Mohmand incident in November 2011, in which US troops killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. The Pakistani soldiers were killed after they opened fire on US troops operating across the border in Kunar province, Afghanistan.

A US intelligence official involved in the drone program in the country told The Long War Journal on May 28 that the strikes would continue now that Pakistan has refused to reopen NATO’s supply lines for the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

In addition to Abu Yahya al Libi and Badr Mansoor, another other high-value target has been killed in the strikes this year. A Jan. 11 strike killed Aslam Awan, a deputy to the leader of al Qaeda’s external operations network.

The program has been scaled down from its peak in 2010, when the US conducted 117 strikes, according to data collected by The Long War Journal. In 2011, the US carried out just 64 strikes in Pakistan’s border regions.

So far this year, the US has launched the same number of strikes in Yemen (23) against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula as it has has launched against al Qaeda and allied terror groups in Pakistan (23). In 2011, however, the US launched only 10 airstrikes in Yemen, versus 64 in Pakistan.

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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  • wallbangr says:

    Hopefully this a shift in policy towards Pakistan. In conjunction with the refusal to be held hostage and blackmailed into paying 20 times the usual rate for the passage of NATO supply trucks, I’m hoping the uptick in pred strikes in the tribal areas is a message to the Pakis: we are no longer playing by your rules. No exorbitant truck fees. No apologies for the November cross-border attack. And we don’t give a damn about domestic reactions to the drone campaign. I just hope the administration has the gonads to stick to their guns and not cave into the senseless whining about soveriegnty (which is a one-sided joke when you consider that the Pak state has asserted no soveriegnty over FATA and could care less about the soveriegn rights of its neighbors). If the Paks won’t assert their mandate over those areas, our drones will. Agree that this is not going to win the greater struggle, but at least we aren’t capitulating to Islamabad’s feigned outrage. It is well past the appropriate time to take a harder stance with the Paks.
    Interesting about the warning from the TTP in South Waziristan that went out to locals [//] not to cooperate with the government. If you look at the commentary from local Pakis in the Trib [//], they all seem to find the timing of it very convenient. The implication being that this is actually an *American* response to having quit the negotiations for NATO convoys. While Pak conspiracy theories must be taken with a obvious grain of salt, it is telling that domestic sentiment wouldn’t put it past the US to be behind ramping up the insurgency (or at least the threat of it) against the Pak government in the tribal areas. Part of me wishes that we were resorting to such tactics, since it would be an amusing irony to have taken a page out of the ISI’s book. I tend to doubt that we are working with the TTP (or that they would work with us), but the other conspiracy theory, that the leaflets are part of a pys-ops propaganda campaign by the Americans, is a fun thought to entertain. If the TTP does act aggressively in the area, it will be very interesting to see how the locals feel about their government’s continued impotence. I think this reinforces the possibility that once the Americans withdraw, the ISI is going to have its hands full dealing with the jihadis who will no longer have Americans to vent their rage at. One can at least hope…

  • Paul D says:

    I am sure we must have agents working in Miramshah and Mir Ali areas as these are Taliban/ALQ hotbeds.

  • Dave in Seattle says:

    This confirms the presence of close human intelligence and sends a great anonymous message to the Taliban that, “You’re not wanted here.” This message comes from the local residents, and not their corrupt, two-faced government in Islamabad. This message is particularly appropriate to a terrorist organization that seizes power only through intimidation, threats, and assassination.
    That said, the crowded Miramshah bazaar is plainly visible in Google Earth. No matter how valuable the target, I am concerned whether this strike could be carried out without endangering innocent lives.
    Thanks for providing our nation’s best coverage of this war and middle eastern military affairs, Bill. I read you every day and discuss your insights with friends and family.

  • mike merlo says:

    this sounds more like ‘placed’ explosives detonated from the air by a drone

  • JT says:

    Mr. Merlo
    With laser and GPS guided munitions, hits can be extremely precise. One of the locations hit during Shock and Awe (contrary to the inexcusable carpet bombing impression sent by most media) was a particular office in a building. The side of the building had a hole in it where the munition (smart “bomb” with no explosive) went through the outer wall to demolish the office. I never did hear whose office it was.
    Again, contrary to most media reports, the human shields were long gone because Saddam’s regime tried to put them near legit targets, not hospitals and schools. And most of the citizens the next few days were walking around without wory because they were not near regime military targets.
    To your point, maybe spies have infiltrated to the point where they can plant explosives, but I doubt it. It’s much easier to ID a location for smart bombs.

  • mike merlo says:

    @ JT
    Miramshah is 10 to 12 miles from the Afghan border as the ‘crow flies.’ During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan KHAD & Soviet personnel regularly ran spec ops into Pakistan focusing on Mujahideen areas of activity. ISAF spec ops & their Afghan counterparts routinely conduct forays into Balochistan, FATA & Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (Pakistan). These forays run the gamut from benign observation to seek & destroy ops.
    Artillery ‘duels’ & ‘other’ exchanges along the AfPak border are frequent & numerous.
    M224 range 2.1 miles, M252 range 3.6 miles,
    MO-120RT ranges 5 miles – all motars.
    AT4 rocket has a maxium range of 1.2 miles wth effective accuracy varying btwn 900 to 1500 ft.
    An M198 howitzer has a RAP range of 18.6 miles wth conventional cannon fire being 14 miles.
    M777 ranges btwn 15 to 25 miles depending on ordinance & are easily transported via the M22 Osprey or the CH-47 Chinook.
    Most if not all exfiltration & infiltration routes along the AfPak border have been identified. “Hot Pursuit” was formally recognized a few yrs ago. To date there has been no info suggesting that “Hot Pursuit” has been terminated. The accepted distance being 10KM (6.2 miles) into the Pakistani ‘sanctuary.’ As elucidated above ‘cover fire’ is easily in range. It should also be noted that “Hot Pursuits” if properly conceived & executed can just as easily be used as cover to either extricate or infiltrate one’s own personnel.
    As enamored as so many are with technology & the ‘fruits’ that it bears it still has limitations. Exploiting these advances in technology are directly commiserate with those tasked to administer & apply it not to mention the weather & the terrain.
    That Pakistani Military & Government ‘combine’ has all but given up imposing lasting authority in its border areas, let alone physical presence in much of it, ISAF & Afghan ground forces have nothing impeding them not to do otherwise. Judging by the insurgents inability to rally & concentrate forces of significant numbers other than along the AfPak border is indicative of ground force interdiction taking place in Pakistan.


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