The US launched its third airstrike in Pakistan’s lawless tribal agencies in the past three days, killing seven more “militants,” according to reports from the region.
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.
The exact target of the strike has not been disclosed. It is unclear if Mustaqeem or senior jihadist leaders or operatives were killed in the US airstrike. The Taliban and al Qaeda have not released statements announcing the death of its leaders or operatives.
The US has carried out 12 drone strikes inside Pakistan this year; all 12 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.
The last three strikes have taken place in the Shawal Valley. The US killed eight militants on Oct. 6 and five more on Oct. 5.
Shawal Valley a haven 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 know 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.]