The US killed a senior leader in the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan in a drone strike that took place yesterday in the tribal agency of Kurram. The strike is the first recorded in Pakistan since the end of January.
Muhammad Khurasani, a spokesman for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, announced the death of Khawray Mehsud and two other jihadists, Umar and Talwar, in an email that was sent to The Long War Journal earlier today. An email eulogizing Khawray was also sent by Umar Media the official media arm of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan.
Khawray, who was from Sararoga in South Waziristan, “was very close to martyred emir Baitulllah Mehsud and was his personal bodyguard,” the statement said. Baitullah was the first emir and founder of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan who was also killed in a US drone strike in 2009.
Additionally, Khawray was described as a commander who possessed “great military skills.” He fought on multiple “fronts” in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. According to the martyrdom statement, he fought in Paktika and Kunar provinces in Afghanistan, and the Pakistani tribal agencies of Bajaur, Mohmand, Khyber, Arakzai, Kurram, and North and South Waziristan.
Yesterday’s drone strike is the first by the US in Pakistan since Jan. 28, when the CIA-operated Reapers targeted a compound in North Waziristan. “Foreigners,” a term used to describe members of al Qaeda and other regional jihadist groups, were among seven jihadists reported killed in that strike. The US launched two other strikes in January, one in North Waziristan and one in South Waziristan.
Last year the US launched 24 airstrikes inside Pakistan; 19 of those strikes took place in North Waziristan and four more in South Waziristan. The number of operations has decreased since the program’s peak in 2010, when 117 attacks were recorded by The Long War Journal. [See LWJ report, Charting the data for US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2015.]
The US continues to target and kill al Qaeda and Taliban leaders in Pakistan’s tribal areas despite previous claims by Obama administration officials that al Qaeda has been decimated and only two “core” al Qaeda leaders remain active. Al Qaeda also remains active outside of Pakistan’s tribal areas in the provinces of Baluchistan, Punjab, and Sindh, where US drones do not operate.
Khawray is the first senior jihadist leader or operative killed in a drone strike in Pakistan this year. The last senior al Qaeda leader reported killed in a strike in Pakistan was Omar Farooq, who was described as al Qaeda’s “coordinator for the Arab region and Pakistan.” Farooq was killed on Dec. 7, 2014. [See LWJ report, Senior al Qaeda and Taliban leaders killed in US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 – 2015.]
Other images released by the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan:
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