The US reportedly killed a senior leader in the newly formed al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent as well as a Taliban commander who serves under Hafiz Gul Bahadar in a pair of drone strikes today in Pakistan’s tribal agencies of Khyber and North Waziristan.
In the first strike, CIA-operated remotely piloted Predators or Reapers fired several missiles at a compound in the village of Chancharano Kandaw in Khyber’s Tirah Valley, The Express Tribune reported.
Sheikh Imran Ali Siddiqi, who is also known as Haji Shaikh Waliullah, was among the four people killed in the airstrike. Two others were wounded. Usama Mahmood, the top spokesman for AQIS, confirmed that Siddiqi was among those killed, The Express Tribune noted. Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent was formed on Sept. 3 and includes elements of some of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India’s most prominent jihadist groups.
The Tirah Valley has served as a haven for senior al Qaeda and other jihadist leaders in the past. In December 2010, the US killed Ibn Amin, the commander of the Tora Bora Brigade, one of six formations in al Qaeda’s Lashkar al Zil or Shadow Army, in one of three drone strikes that month.
In the second of today’s strikes, the US killed Taliban commander Muhammad Mustafa and three other “foreigners” as they traveled in a vehicle in the village of Maraga in the Shawal Valley in North Waziristan. Mustafa served under Hafiz Gul Bahadar, the senior Taliban leader in North Waziristan who is favored by Pakistan’s military and government despite his ties to terrorist groups, according to Dawn.
The Shawal Valley, where today’s second strike took place, is administered by Bahadar, who provides shelter to senior al Qaeda leaders as well as terrorists from numerous Pakistani and Central Asian terror groups.
The valley spans both North and South Waziristan and is a known haven for al Qaeda and other terror groups operating in the region. A host of Taliban, Pakistani, and foreign terrorist groups gather in the Shawal Valley and then enter Afghanistan to fight US, NATO, and Afghan government forces. [See LWJ report, US launches another 2 drone strikes in North Waziristan, for more information on the Shawal Valley.]
The US has carried out 16 drone strikes inside Pakistan this year; all 16 have taken place since June 11. The US drone program in Pakistan was put on hold from the end of December 2013 up until June 11, 2014 as the Pakistani government attempted to negotiate a peace deal with the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, an al Qaeda-linked group that wages jihad in Afghanistan and seeks to overthrow the Pakistani state.
Seven of the 16 strikes have taken place since Oct. 5. Five of the strikes have taken place in North Waziristan, one in South Waziristan, and the other in Khyber. The recent surge in drone strikes indicates the US is hunting one or more senior al Qaeda leaders. Sheikh Imran Ali Siddiqi, the AQIS leader, and Muhammad Mustafa, the Taliban commander, are the first two high-value targets reported killed in the seven most recent strikes.