Several foreign fighters were among seven suspected jihadists who were killed in the latest US drone strike in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan.
The CIA-operated, remotely piloted Predators or Reapers fired two missiles at a compound and a vehicle in the Shawal Valley, killing “seven suspected militants,” Dawn reported.
“The compound was razed to ground whereas a vehicle inside the compound was blown into pieces,” the Express Tribune reported.
Three of those killed are said to be “foreigners,” a term used to describe foreign fighters from Arab countries or from regional groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan or the Turkistan Islamic Party. Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups have not announced the deaths of any senior leaders, commanders, or operatives.
The Shawal Valley, which is administered by Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadar and spans both North and South Waziristan, is a known haven for al Qaeda and other terror groups operating in the region. A number of Taliban, Pakistani, and foreign terrorist groups gather in the Shawal Valley and then enter Afghanistan to fight US, NATO, and Afghan government forces.
The US has launched 24 drone strikes in the Shawal Valley since September 2010. Abdul Shakoor Turkistani, the former emir of the Turkistan Islamic Party, was killed in a strike in August 2012; while three al Qaeda military trainers were killed in an attack there in August 2013.
US strikes in Pakistan
Today’s drone strike in North Waziristan is the third reported in Pakistan this year. The last attack, on Jan. 15, targeted a compound belonging to Sajna Mehsud, a Taliban commander in South Waziristan. Two Uzbek fighters were reported killed in the strike.
Last year the US launched 24 airstrikes inside Pakistan; 19 of those strikes took place in n 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.