A suicide bomber killed seven Pakistani soldiers in an area in the tribal agencies where the US has concentrated its drone campaign over the past several months.
The Inter-Services Public Relations, the Pakistani military’s news arm, announced the deaths of the seven soldiers in a statement released on its website.
“When being chased and cordoned, one terrorist exploded his suicide jacket, resultantly 7 soldiers embraced shahadat,” the military announced.
The ISPR also claimed that “19 terrorists were killed including 5 of their commanders in an intense exchange of fire.” However, Taliban sources told Reuters that one one jihadist was killed and three were wounded during the exchange.
The ISPR said that the fighting took place in an “uncleared pocket along NWA- Afgn [sic] Border.” Dawn reported that the clash “occurred on the Laddha-Shawal axis on the boundary between North and South Waziristan,” while Reuters said it was at a military checkpoint in the Datta Khel area.
Jihadists in both the Datta Khel and Shawal areas have been targeted in the CIA’s drone campaign in Pakistan this year. Of the last 15 strikes that have taken place in Pakistan since the beginning of November 2014, eight struck targets in the Shawal Valley and five in Datta Khel. A senior al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent leader known as Qari Imran and an al Qaeda commander known as Omar Farooq were killed in the strikes.
The Shawal Valley and Datta Khel are administered by Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadar. The areas are used to shelter al Qaeda and other terror groups operating in the region and as staging areas to infiltrate Afghanistan and attack US, NATO, and Afghan government forces.
The Pakistani military reportedly is preparing to expand its offensive in North Waziristan, which began in mid-June 2014, into the Shawal Valley and Datta Khel. The operation, called Zarb-e-Azb, has focused on foreign terrorist groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the Turkistan Islamic Party, as well as the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan.
The Pakistani military has not attacked the Haqqani Network, a subgroup of the Afghan Taliban, or the Hafiz Gul Bahadar Group, despite claims to the contrary. No senior or junior Haqqani Network or Bahadar group commanders or fighters have been reported killed in the Pakistani operation.
These two independent Taliban factions are considered by the Pakistani military, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, and the government to be “good Taliban,” as they do not openly advocate attacking the Pakistan state. But the Haqqanis and the Bahadar group, the two most powerful Taliban factions in North Waziristan, shelter and support al Qaeda, IMU, TIP, and the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan (the “bad Taliban”). [See LWJ report, Pakistan launches ‘comprehensive operation against foreign and local terrorists’ in North Waziristan, and Threat Matrix report, Pakistani forces focus on ‘foreigners’ in North Waziristan operation.]
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD's Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.