The US launched two more airstrikes in Pakistan’s lawless tribal agencies today, killing 10 more “militants,” according to reports from the region.
In the first strike, the remotely piloted, CIA-operated Reapers or Predators fired missiles at a compound and a vehicle in the village of Kund Ghar in the Shawal Valley in North Waziristan. The compound is owned by “militant commander Mustaqeem,” according to Dawn.
In the second strike, the US killed three more “militants” and wounded five, according to Dawn. Two missiles were fired at a compound in the village Madakhel Kunar Sar in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan.
The targets of the strikes have not been disclosed. It is unclear if Mustaqeem or senior jihadist leaders or operatives were killed in the first US airstrike. The Taliban and al Qaeda have not released statements announcing the death of its leaders or operatives.
The US has carried out 13 drone strikes inside Pakistan this year; all 13 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.
Three of the last four strikes have taken place in the Shawal Valley. The US killed five militants on Oct. 5 and eight more militants on Oct. 6. Six out of the last 10 strikes in Pakistan have occurred in the Datta Khel area.
Shawal Valley, Datta Khel are known havens for al Qaeda and allied jihadist groups
The Shawal Valley is a region that spans the jihadist-infested tribal agencies of North and South Waziristan. The valley is used as a staging point for fighters entering eastern Afghanistan to battle US and Afghan forces.
Al Qaeda and other allied jihadist groups are also known to shelter in the Shawal Valley. A strike on July 29, 2013 killed three al Qaeda military “training experts.” The al Qaeda fighters were identified as “Abu Rashid from Saudi Arabia, Muhammed Ilyas Kuwaiti from Kuwait, and Muhammed Sajid Yamani from Yemen.”
The three al Qaeda trainers killed in the July 29, 2013 strike were members of the Lashkar-al-Zil, or the Shadow Army, al Qaeda’s paramilitary force that fields small conventional units in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, and is known to operate training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The US Treasury Department officially acknowledged the existence of this unit when it added one such Pakistan-based trainer and commander of al Qaeda’s “paramilitary brigades” to the list of global terrorists in June 2013. [See LWJ reports, 3 al Qaeda military ‘training experts’ killed in US drone strike in Pakistan, US adds al Qaeda explosives expert to list of global terrorists, and Al Qaeda’s paramilitary ‘Shadow Army’.]
Another senior jihadist killed by the US in the Shawal Valley is Abdul Shakoor Turkistani, the former emir of the al Qaeda-allied Turkistan Islamic Party. Abdul Shakoor, who was killed in a US drone strike in on Aug. 24, 2012, was given command of al Qaeda’s forces in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in the spring of 2010. [See LWJ report, Turkistan Islamic Party leader thought killed in US drone strike.]
The Datta Khel area is administered by Hafiz Gul Bahadar, the top Taliban commander for North Waziristan. Bahadar provides shelter to senior al Qaeda leaders as well as terrorists from numerous Pakistani and Central Asian terror groups.
Datta Khel is a known hub of Taliban, Haqqani Network, and al Qaeda activity. While Bahadar administers the region, the Haqqani Network, al Qaeda, and allied Central Asian jihadist groups are also based in the area. The Lashkar al Zil is known to operate a command center in Datta Khel. Some of al Qaeda’s top leaders have been killed in drone strikes in Datta Khel, including Mustafa Abu Yazid, a longtime al Qaeda leader and close confidant of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri; Abdullah Said al Libi, the commander of the Shadow Army; and Zuhaib al Zahibi, a general in the Shadow Army.
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