In what appeared a friendly strike or inadvertent attack of the U.S. on Pakistani Good Taliban area that claimed lives of 6 terrorists of Yazidi takfiri nasbi terrorists of al-Qaeda?
Amir Mir has reported in The News on Tuesday that al-Qaeda has confirmed that the recent US drone strikes had killed six of its leaders in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan, which used to be administered by Hafiz Gul Bahadur — once considered to be a “good Taliban” by the Pakistani establishment.
These six al-Qaeda leaders were killed in the July 10 drone strike that took place in the Doga Mada Khel village in North Waziristan Agency’s Datta Khel area — a well-known hub of al-Qaeda, Haqqani Network, Tehrik-e-Taliban and the Lashkar-e-Zil.
Some of the top al-Qaeda leaders killed in drone strikes in Datta Khel also included Mustafa Abu Yazid, the chief operational commander of al-Qaeda and a close aide of Osama bin Laden, who had claimed responsibility for the 2007 murder of Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi.
Others killed in the July 10 drone strike could not be identified at that time because their bodies were immediately removed from the scene. However, 10 days later, Sanafi al Nasr, the head of al Qaeda’s “Victory Committee”, who is based in Syria and has close ties with al-Qaeda’s general command in Pakistan, has stated that six of his “dearest comrades” were killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan.
Nasr, a Saudi national whose real name is Abdul Mohsin Abdullah Ibrahim Al Sharikh, being the leader of the “Victory Committee”, is responsible for developing and implementing al-Qaeda’s strategy and policies.
One of bin Laden’s three cousins, Nasr has been active online for almost a decade and had risen through the al-Qaeda ranks to become one of its most senior leaders. Before being relocated to Syria to lead a privileged al-Qaeda committee, he was based in the Waziristan tribal belt of Pakistan.
While tweeting on the “Martyrdom of six of the dearest comrades”, Nasr has named three of them — Taj Al Makki, Abu Abdur Rahman Al Kuwaiti and Fayez Awda Al Khalidi. He did not name the three other al-Qaeda leaders who were droned to death.
Makki from Saudi Arabia, Rahman from Kuwait and Khalidi were mid-level commanders and were important to the terror group due to their association with Nasr.
Even though the American CIA had not formally abandoned its deadly drone programme in Pakistan, there was no drone strike in its tribal belt bordering Afghanistan for six months, between December 25, 2013 and June 11, 2014, as the Sharif government had been holding peace talks with the TTP. In fact, the Sharif government had requested the Obama administration to stop the drone strikes in Pakistan to facilitate the peace talks with the Taliban. Interestingly, halting the US drone attacks had been a key demand of the TTP to initiate the peace talks given the fact that most of the Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders had been killed in these strikes, including TTP’s founding Ameer Baitullah Mehsud and his successor Hakeemullah Mehsud, and at least six chief operational commanders of al-Qaeda.
However, the six-month-long pause in the drone hits was broken by the CIA on June 11 to target the Haqqani Network and Afghan Taliban leaders who were plotting to launch cross border attacks in Afghanistan. This meant that they posed an ‘imminent’ threat of a violent attack against the United States, as a Department of Justice white paper required for targeting with the drones.
While resuming its drone campaign in Pakistan, the CIA carried out two strikes in Miramshah in North Waziristan on June 11 [four days before the launching of Operation Zarb-e-Azab] that killed a Haqqani network commander Haji Gul and two Afghan Taliban military commanders Mufti Sufian and Abu Bakar. The drone strikes in Dandi Darpakhel, which headquarters the TTP and the Haqqani Network, targeted some explosive laden vehicles, which were believed to be used in a terrorist mission across the border in Afghanistan.
The Datta Khel area has seen four drone strikes since the launching of the Operation Zarb-e-Azab, primarily targeting the al-Qaeda and Haqqani network leaders. The Pakistan Army troops have not yet reached the militant-infested Datta Khel where the real challenge for the ground offensive would come from the Taliban, who are holding out in Madakhel, Alwara Mandi and all the way-up to Shawal Valley.
Six top al-Qaeda leaders droned in Waziristan
The military authorities intend to move towards Datta Khel after getting complete hold of Mirali and Miramshah areas where the fight is still on.The area cleared so far by the Pakistan Army in North Waziristan was under the control of Hafiz Gul Bahadar, who was once considered to be a “good Taliban” and had a peace deal with the Pakistani authorities.
No one knows where he is now, but it is believed that he has taken refuge in Ghariom on the boundary with South Waziristan.The July 10 killings of six al-Qaeda leaders have given credence to the American claims that al-Qaeda continues to thrive in the tribal areas of Pakistan even after Osama bin Laden’s killing in a covert American military raid in May 2011. While the al-Qaeda founder was killed by the American SEALs in a surreptitious operation in the garrison town of Abbottabad, al-Qaeda’s chief operational commander and the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was captured from the garrison town of Rawalpindi, Abu Zubaidah was arrested from Faisalabad, Ramzi Bin Shibah was nabbed from the port city of Karachi, Abu Faraj al Libi was arrested from Mardan, Sheikh Ahmed Khalfan was captured from Gujrat, Younis Mauritani was arrested from Quetta while Umar Patek was captured from Abbottabad only a few weeks before Osama was killed in Abbottabad.