US drone strike targets head of Pakistani Taliban


Hakeemullah Mehsud, left. AFP photo.

The US targeted the emir of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan in a drone strike today in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan. The strike is the second in the tribal agency in three days.

The CIA-operated, remotely piloted Predators or the more deadly Reapers fired a pair of missiles at Hakeemullah’s vehicle as it left a mosque in the village of Danday Darpa Khel in the Miramshah area of North Waziristan, Dawn reported. The strike killed five “militants.”

Hakeemullah Mehsud, the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, was the target of today’s strike. Hakeemullah’s bodyguard, who was identified as Tariq Mehsud, and his driver, Abdullah Mehsud, are said to be among those killed in today’s attack.

Pakistani intelligence officials are claiming they have confirmed that Hakeemullah was killed in the strike, but officials would not speak on the record, Reuters reported.

US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal said that they do not know if Hakeemullah was killed in today’s strike. The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, which was quick to confirm the death of its deputy emir, Waliur Rehman, in May, has not released a martyrdom statement for Hakeemullah.

Danday Darpa Khel is a known hub for al Qaeda, the Taliban, and the Haqqani Network. A previous strike, on July 2, killed Abu Saif al Jaziri, an al Qaeda military commander in the Lashkar al Zil, and Maulana Akhtar Zadran, a Haqqani Network officer.

Today’s strike took place just two days after another strike targeted “militants” in the village of Zafar, which is also in the Miramshah area of North Waziristan. The area is administered by the Haqqani Network, a subgroup of the Afghan Taliban that is tied to al Qaeda and based in North Waziristan.

The US targeted Hakeemullah just one day after the Pakistani government announced that it was formally negotiating a peace agreement with the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. Previous peace agreements have led to an expansion of Taliban control in the tribal areas and the greater Pakistani northwest.

The Pakistani government, which in the past has secretly permitted the drone strikes while denouncing them publicly, has called for an end to the attacks. After a strike at the end of September, Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement denouncing the US strike and called for the US to bring a halt to the program that targets al Qaeda, the Taliban, and a host of terrorist groups operating in North and South Waziristan. And last week, after meeting with President Barack Obama, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also publicly called for the US to end the strikes.

The drone strikes are controversial, as groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have accused the US of indiscriminately killing civilians in strikes in both Pakistan and Yemen. But in the past week, Pakistan’s Ministry of Defence released a report stating that 67 civilians have been killed in drone strikes since the beginning of 2009, and claimed that no civilians have been killed since the beginning of 2012.

The Long War Journal has recorded, based on Pakistani press reports, that at least 2,079 jihadists from al Qaeda, the Taliban, and a host of terror groups operating in North and South Waziristan have been killed in strikes since the beginning of 2009, including some of al Qaeda’s top leaders. There have also been 102 reported civilian deaths in drone strikes in Pakistan since the beginning of 2009, with 15 civilians killed since the beginning of 2012. Civilian casualties are difficult to assess as the strikes take place in areas under Taliban control; the figure may be higher than 102.

The US has launched 25 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; 332 of the 349 strikes recorded since 2004, or 95%, have taken place in the two tribal agencies. But al Qaeda and allied groups are known to have an extensive network throughout all of 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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  • KaneKaizer says:

    Very interesting… Reminds me of Baitullah’s wife. Fingers crossed, eh Bill?

  • g says: is reporting him dead. Let’s hope.

  • Prakash says:

    Are the drone attacks supposed to be the only one weapon against terrorism. If people dying under these attack proved innocent, who is responsible for that type of murders. Some one must think on it and should discuss on it. There must be another solution.

  • Barry Larking says:

    BBC is reporting (17.49 GMT) Taliban source as saying Hakeemullah Mehsud has been killed by drone strike.
    Two minds about this. I don’t shed any tears over someone who has died as he lived; but I do not take these ’emirs’ at their own valuation. There are more where he came from. Bill Roggio is surely correct in asserting that drone strikes do not amount to a policy by themselves, but what policy would work? For myself I see no reason to believe anything the Pakistanis say and following ISAF’s withdrawal from Afghanistan it will be business as usual.

  • gb says:

    @Prakash…you’ll find little sympathy on these pages. Of course no one likes to see women and children killed in these attacks, but the terrorists surround themselves with non-combatants all the time. As far as answering to these “murder” charges, let me ask you who do the Taliban murders answer to?

  • Joseph says:

    Prakesh, Drone attacks are just one of the methods used. They are very effective and they limit innocent losses. Think of it this way, more innocent people would be impacted if tanks were sent in. Look at Syria, for example.

  • AntiDal says:

    You are not fair Drone operators! You should kill equally from the both sides. TTP is Afghan national assets and we consider them as Good Taliban, by killing their leader you made us behind schedule … Now it’s time to show some generosity and send some Bad Taliban Mulah Omar/Haqqani to the Hell … Very truly yours…

  • NP says:

    Seems like TTP are in the crosshairs lately. I don’t really know what to make of this all. We capture Latif as he is traveling with Afghan intelligence. Haven’t heard a peep about him since. Sharif asks Obama for an end to all drone strikes. A story is ‘leaked’ a few days later of Pakistani complicity in drone strikes. Now Meshud is presumed killed while attending a meeting to discuss a cease fire with the government. Throw in Mullah Sangeen for good measure. Somebody is getting some very good intel on these guys. The kind of intel that usually can only come from ISI. I don’t think these are isolated events. Something big is going on.

  • Bungo says:

    Adios Hacky-Sack. You had a good run but it’s all over now. I’m surprised it took so long, but I’m a patient man. Who’s next?
    Shout Out to Prakash: One option is to invade N. Waziristan and clear every room in every hovel in every town and backwater village with ground troops until the terrorists are pacified. Would that be better for you? Lets talk.

  • jean says:

    Should have done this years ago. they need to hit a couple of key target in Quetta as well.

  • Scott J says:

    I’m glad they got him. It would be interesting to know the story behind the story. Did the Pakistani ISI give the U.S. the intelligence to target him? Or did the U.S. do it on its own and keep the Pakistanis in the dark like they did with OBL? It would be a great story, but I doubt we’ll get to hear it.

  • JimBoMo says:

    @NP I agree, hard to make sense of what is happening w/all themoves. Big wheels are turning, some of them are, no doubt, feints and deceptions. I wonder what transpired in Washington and if this only the beginning of some interesting moves.

  • Joe says:

    It seems that lately we only seem to targeting or finding people that the Pakistanis would want dead more than we would. I mean, correct me if I am wrong, but I don’t recall these guys doing all that much to us or the Afghans and this seems to be something of a pattern now

  • g says:

    Prakash, Joe,
    Think of it this way: More innocent lives would be lost if he weren’t killed.

  • Dan says:

    @joe Its about even haki and wali ur rehman, were considered bad Taliban, because they target
    Pakistan, but we also killed mullah nasir and mullah sangeen zadran who are considered good Taliban by Pakistan.

  • . says:

    @ Prakash. Please suggest alternatives.

  • Paul says:

    We seem to be killing TTP to keep the Paks happy.Wont stop the Paks harbouring Mullah Omar/Haqquani or zawihiri.

  • Bungo says:

    @Joe : This guy was supposedly behind the failed Times Square bombing a few years ago. It was one man and a crude car bomb that fizzled if I recall. I’m pretty sure that’s how he got on the Kill or Capture List, among other nefarious acts against American citizens I’m sure. It wasn’t all about the Paks, though they might have been a bit “helpful” if you know what I mean. Haki was running out of friends pretty quickly.

  • gb says:

    So the Paki ambassador summoned the American ambassador to discuss their extreme unhappiness with this hit..Are the Paki’s truly upset or is this face saving, or perhaps just a smoke screen to pacify the masses?

  • Yakul says:

    As drone technology develops this issue is going to get more rather than less complex to manage.


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