Center for Strategic Communication

The US reportedly killed six jihadists today in an airstrike in an area of Pakistan’s tribal agency of North Waziristan that has in the past served as an al Qaeda command and control center.

The CIA operated, remotely piloted Predators or Reapers launched a pair of missiles at a compound and a vehicle in the village of Dawa Toi in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan, The Express Tribune reported. The strike destroyed the vehicle and damaged the compound, according to local tribesmen.

Six “local and foreign militants” were killed and three more were wounded in the attack, the Pakistani newspaper reported. The identities of those killed were not disclosed. Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and other jihadist allies known to operate in the area have not announced the deaths of senior leaders or commanders.

Pakistan “condemns” drone strike

Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs was quick to denounce today’s drone strike in Datta Khel.

“The Government of Pakistan condemns the US drone strike that took place at Dawa Toi, North Waziristan Agency on 11 November 2014 at 1546 hours,” a press release by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs states. “Pakistan considers such strikes a violation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity, especially at a time when our authorities are engaged in taking decisive action against terrorist elements in North Waziristan Agency. Pakistan demands a cessation of such strikes in future.”

The Pakistani government routinely denounces US airstrikes as “a violation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” even though it is known that the government has given the US permission to launch strikes against al Qaeda in North and South Waziristan.

The Pakistani government typically objects to strikes that target the so-called “good Taliban” such as the Haqqani network and the Hafiz Gul Bahadar Group. These Taliban factions do not advocate attacking the Pakistani state, but do support jihadist groups that wage war on the government. The so-called good Taliban also support and wage jihad in Afghanistan and India. [See Threat Matrix report, Pakistan condemns drone strike that targeted ‘good Taliban.]

Datta Khel an al Qaeda hub

The US has carried out 18 drone strikes inside Pakistan this year. Eight of those strikes have taken place in Datta Khel.

All 18 strikes 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 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, al Qaeda’s Shadow Army, is also 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. Yazid, al Libi, and al Zahibi were killed in 2010.

Despite US government claims that al Qaeda’s core has been “decimated” in Pakistan’s tribal areas, leaders of the terror group continue to operate in the region, including in Datta Khel.

The US killed six al Qaeda leaders and operatives in a drone strike there on July 10. Their deaths were reported by Sanafi al Nasr, a senior al Qaeda leader based in Syria who communicates with al Qaeda’s leadership in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He identified three of those killed as Taj al Makki, Abu Abdurahman al Kuwaiti, and Fayez Awda al Khalidi. [See LWJ report, 6 al Qaeda operatives thought killed in recent drone strike in Pakistan.]

Another strike, on July 19, killed eight militants, including two commanders from the Punjabi Taliban, a conglomeration of jihadist groups from Pakistan’s Punjab province. The Punjabi Taliban commanders’ names were not disclosed by Pakistani officials. Asmatullah Muawiya, the leader of the Punjabi Taliban, also serves as an al Qaeda commander and he has been agreeable to conducting peace talks with the Pakistani government. [See LWJ report, US drones target ‘Punjabi Taliban’ in North Waziristan strike.]

And an Aug. 6 strike killed five jihadists, including unnamed “foreigners,” a term reserved for al Qaeda and other allied groups not originating in Pakistan.