The US has launched three drone strikes in the past 24 hours in an area known as a terrorist haven in the Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan.
In the first of the two most recent strikes, the remotely piloted Predators or the more advanced Reapers fired several missiles at two vehicles in the Mana area in the Shawal Valley in North Waziristan, according to AFP and Geo News. Five drones were seen circling over the attack site before and after the strike.
Pakistani officials said that between four and seven “militants” were killed in the strike, but did not disclose their identities.
In the second of the pair of strikes, two more “militants” were killed while conducting recovery operations at the scene of the previous strike.
Although no senior al Qaeda or Taliban leaders were reported killed, the pace of the strikes indicates that the one or more high value targets were the focus of the attacks.
The US has now launched three strikes in Shawal in the past 24 hours. On Saturday, the drones hit a compound in the village of Shuwedar in the Shawal Valley in North Waziristan, killing six “militants,” according to Pakistani officials. Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry objected to the Shuwedar strike, and called the US incursions “a violation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity and also in contravention of international law,” according to Dawn.
Al Qaeda, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, and Taliban fighters under the command of Hafiz Gul Bahadar, the leader of the Taliban in North Waziristan, are all known to operate in the Shawal Valley, which is near the Afghan border. Bahadar administers the Shawal Valley. The area is used to launch attacks across the border in Afghanistan. [For more information on the Shawal Valley, see LWJ report, US drones kill 6 ‘militants’ in Pakistan’s Shawal Valley.]
So far this year, eight of the 31 drone strikes in Pakistan have hit targets in the Shawal Valley. Targeting in the area seems to be increasing; six of the past eight strikes have taken place in the Shawal Valley. The previous strike in Shawal, on July 23, killed 12 “militants,” including a Taliban commander loyal to Hafiz Gil Bahadar. Another, on July 1, is said to have killed several members of the Turkistan Islamic Party, an al Qaeda-affiliated group that operates in Pakistan, China, and Central Asia.
Thirteen of the 31 strikes in Pakistan this year have taken place since the beginning of June; 11 occurred in North Waziristan and two were in South Waziristan. Four senior al Qaeda and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leaders were killed in the strikes. [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.]
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.