US drones kill 6 in North Waziristan

The US launched a drone strike in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan today. Six “militants,” including an unnamed “high value target,” are said to have been killed in the latest attack in an area known to serve as a launchpad for operations against US forces in Afghanistan.

The remotely piloted Predators or the more advanced Reapers fired two missiles at a compound in the village of Mangroati in the Shawal area of the North Waziristan, according to Dawn. Six militants, including a “high value target,” are reported to have been killed. The name of the senior operative thought to have been killed was not disclosed.

Today’s strike is the first in Pakistan since the US killed Waliur Rehman, the deputy emir of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and the group’s leader in South Waziristan. It is also the first strike in Pakistan since Nawaz Sharif was sworn in as the country’s prime minister. Sharif has repeatedly called for an end to drone strikes and is seeking to negotiate with the Taliban.

The last strike in the Shawal Valley took place on Dec. 28, 2012; five “militants” are reported to have died in the attack.

The Shawal Valley is a known haven for al Qaeda and other terror groups operating in the region. Last year, 10 of the 46 drone strikes in Pakistan, or 22%, hit targets in the Shawal Valley. Targeting in the area was heavy during the summer of 2012; at one point in time, seven of 10 strikes took place there.

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. The area is used to launch attacks across the border in Afghanistan. Additionally, Central Asia terror groups are known to operate in the area. On July 1, 2012, a US drone strike killed several members of the Turkistan Islamic Party, an al Qaeda-affiliated group that operates in Pakistan, China, and Central Asia.

Bahadar administers the Shawal Valley. In 2009, after the Pakistani military launched an offensive in the Mehsud areas of South Waziristan, Bahadar sheltered the families of Hakeemullah Mehsud, the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, and Waliur Rehman [see LWJ report, Taliban escape South Waziristan operation].

Despite the known presence of al Qaeda and other foreign groups in North Waziristan, and requests by the US that action be taken against these groups, the Pakistani military has indicated that it has no plans to take on Hafiz Gul Bahadar or the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network. Bahadar and the Haqqanis are considered “good Taliban” by the Pakistani military establishment as they do not carry out attacks inside Pakistan. In June 2012, Bahadar banned polio vaccinations in North Waziristan, in protest against US drone strikes.

The US has launched 15 drone strikes in Pakistan so far this year, according to data compiled by The Long War Journal. The number of strikes in Pakistan has decreased since a peak in 2010, when 117 such attacks were recorded. In 2011, 64 strikes were launched in Pakistan, and in 2012 there were 46 strikes.

The US has targeted al Qaeda’s top leaders and its external operations network, as well as the assortment of Taliban and Pakistani jihadist groups operating in the region. The strikes have been confined mostly to North and South Waziristan. Of the 340 strikes recorded since 2004, 323, or 95%, have taken place in the two tribal agencies.

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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11 Comments

  • Jago Gonza says:

    Ain’t no Mangroati, Pakistan. Mangretay is a village on the west side of the Shawal Wazir ridge, midway up the Bermel valley. Shawal Valley runs on the east side of the Shawal Wazir. Durrand’s Line runs along the top of the main ridge.

  • mike merlo says:

    “…high value target!” Huh? Whats that? An insurgent stoned on dope? A Mass Retailer marketing ploy? No matter at least ‘we’ can rest assured that so-called (Unidentified Terrestial Based Object) ‘UTBO’ will revealed by any one of the various Media outlets employed by the Islamic Internationale.

  • Gerald says:

    Sweet!!

  • hibeam says:

    Seems like a lot of bad guys have popped their heads up recently. Let me reaffirm our position. We wil not use drones anymore.

  • We do not know who US has killed as they refuse to name their targets. Nawaz Sharif is now in contempt of court if he does not act on drone strikes, see press statement on 7th. from lawyers for civilian drone victims.
    Islamic Emirate and TTP have shifted stance on polio vaccine, listened to reasoned arguement… confirmed in statement… Islamic Emirate now “supporting” vaccine programme…
    Unknown agitants have since killed one worker… Islamic Emirate once again pointed back to their press release on this issue of support for programme. It does not help those trying to carry out vaccination programme that public communications from insurgents are taken down. This means that many do not know about shift and those on the ground are trying to save the lives of the children of Pakistan!

  • matthew says:

    Hibeam, Obama didn’t say he would stop using drones. He just said he would add conditions to them.

  • gitsum says:

    Nice job drone pilots, I’m sure the new President of Pakistan will be whining about this. I ask, if these drones are killing all the civilians claimed, then where are all the photos of such. It seems to me this would be posted after every strike in some lame website or delivered to Al-Jazeera and exploited to thier favor.

  • Nolan says:

    Bill,
    Do you have any clue as to who the assassinated individual may be or what group he belonged to? Or a guess of some sort? I know you can’t really just “guess” as a journalist but I’m curious as to your opinion on the matter. I feel like the Administration is trying to keep very low the amount of Pakistani drone strikes during these past few weeks. So for them to launch an attack would mean it would have to be someone important. Which is what we saw with Waliur Rahman Mehsud in May and perhaps Abu Ubaydah al-Adam back in April. Signature strikes have all but vanished of late, so we can be fairly certain that the targeted individual was vital to AQ, TTP, IMU, IJU, ETIP, HN or whatever.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Nolan, it would be an uneducated guess, at best. It could be anyone. This area is one that was typically hit in the so-called ‘signature strikes.’

  • JRP says:

    With all the pressure being brought to bear upon the Obama Administration from both within the U.S. and from without, any drone strikes that are authorized are probably aimed at targets that the “pilots” believe in good faith to be genuine HVTs. However, the handwriting is on the wall for the drone program. Pakistan’s new leader has called in our diplomats to berate them and the U.S. over the latest drone strike. I think this time it’s more than for public consumption. We, of course, have to push back, not by ignoring the warning, but by switching tactics at least temporarily and cutting off some or all of the $$$ we bribe Pakistan with. Basically telling the Pakistani authorities . . . “No Drones; No $$$”.

  • Dan says:

    dawn reports the high value target as ttp leader named mutaqi aka bahadur khan.

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