Two missile attacks launched from a US drone killed at least 15 in Pakistan’s northwest borderlands Jan. 23, indicating that the strategy of using remotely controlled air-strikes to target militants within Pakistan’s borders will continue under President Barack Obama. Both of the missile strikes hit Waziristan, in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
The first missile struck a village known as Mir Ali in North Waziristan. Pakistani government officials issued a statement saying the attack destroyed the house of a man identified as Khalil Dawar and killed eight people. The statement said that militants surrounded the area and retrieved the bodies. One senior Pakistani security official told the New York Times that four of those killed were Arabs—taken as an indication of al-Qaeda’s presence. In the second attack, missiles struck a house near the village of Wana, South Waziristan, killing seven, according to local accounts. The reports said three of the dead were children.
US officials believe the drone strikes have killed a number of suspected militants in the region so far this year, including a senior al-Qaeda operative who was killed Jan. 1 and was believed to have been involved in the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania as well as the bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad four months ago.
Predator drones operated by the CIA have carried out more than 30 missile attacks since last summer. But the attacks have also killed civilians, drawing harsh protests from Pakistan. (NYT, Jan. 23)
Guerillas close Khyber Pass
In a sure sign of growing insurgency in the borderlands, the US has obtained permission to move troop supplies headed for Afghanistan through Russia and Central Asia as an alternative to the Khyber Pass, CentCom chief Gen. David H. Petraeus said this week. About three-quarters of NATO supplies are normally shipped into Afghanistan through the Khyber Pass from Pakistan. But Taliban guerrillas who dominate Pakistan’s tribal areas have pushed deeper into the Khyber region recently, burning hundreds of NATO supply trucks in Peshawar and carrying out deadly attacks on NATO convoys. The violence has led some Pakistani truckers to stop driving the route. With the US deployment expected to as much as double this year to 60,000 troops, it has become critical to find new routes to bring supplies into Afghanistan. (NYT, Jan. 20)
Suicide attack on NATO base
At least one civilian was killed and several others wounded in a suicide attack on a NATO/ISAF base in Afghanistan’s Khost province, near the strategically important artery that leads to the border with Pakistan. (AGI, Jan. 19)
On Jan. 23, NATO and Afghan security forces carried out raids in Kabul and Logar province, killing a militant suspected of planning last week’s suicide bombing near the German embassy in Afghanistan. At least five people were killed—four civilians and a US soldier—when the bomb exploded opposite the German embassy and near the largest US military camp in Kabul. (Press TV, Jan. 23)
Osma’s son back in Afghanistan?
According to media reports, Iran has quietly released Osama bin Laden’s elder son from house arrest and, in the words of an unnamed Arab diplomat, “pushed him across Western Afghanistan’s bordering Heart region.” Reports in the region indicated he eventually arrived in Pakistan.
“I don’t know where he may be presently located—he could be on either side of the Pak-Afghan border after traveling from western Afghanistan,” said the diplomat, who spoke to CBS News in Islamabad on condition of anonymity. Saad bin Laden, 27, is one of the 19 children of the world’s most notorious terrorist suspect, and is said to be involved in al-Qaeda operations. (CBS, Jan. 17)