Jun 23 2009
Update: We apparently nailed three top Taliban commanders:
Two suspected U.S. drone attacks against militants in northern Pakistan over the last day have killed at least 55 people, including three top Taliban commanders, and wounded 50 others, Pakistani intelligence sources said Wednesday.
Rumors have it Baitullah Mehsud himself was nearby during the second attack, no confirmation though. – end update
The US has fired drones at strongholds of radical Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud today. It seems the armed Predator attacks were in two waves. First this article:
The death toll in a US drone strike on a house in South Waziristan agency hit 45, reports our sources citing a foreign news agency here Tuesday.
The official said the drones fired three guided missiles on a compound, a bunker and two vehicles of the Taliban loyal to local militant commander Baitullah Mehsud.
A suspected US drone attack on a stronghold of a Pakistani Taliban leader has killed at least 40 people and wounded dozens more in northwest Pakistan, Pakistani intelligence officials have said.
The missile hit a funeral prayer on Tuesday in the South Waziristan tribal region, a stronghold of Baitullah Mehsud.
Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder, reporting from Islamabad, said most of those killed were believed to have been attending the funeral forÂ the victims ofÂ another drone attack earlier in the day.
“There are reports that Baitullah Mehsud himself was at that congregational prayer and escaped the attack. However, we are told that a number of people present at that particular moment were killed.
The people killed in South Waziristan region had been attending a funeral for others killed in a US drone strike earlier on Tuesday.
Intelligence officials said at least 45 people had been killed and dozens more injured in the later strike, when two missiles were fired.
Also it seems Baitullah Mehsud’s thugs killed a rival Taliban lord from Waziristan who was preparing a Taliban alliance of tribes, allied with the Pak government, to counter Mehsud’s poisonous brand of Islam:
The death of Qari Zainuddin, the rival leader, comes as a serious blow to the government, which had supported him as a counter to Mr. Mehsud in its campaign against the Taliban.
Mr. Zainuddin and his group were helping the government by denying Mr. Mehsud and his fighters the ability to operate in a nearby region, and in recent months, killing some 30 of his fighters. Pakistani jets have also targeted Mehsudâ€™s hideouts in recent days.
Mr. Zainuddin, who in his 30s, was part of Mr. Mehsudâ€™s tribe, but had split with him, and joined forces with Turkestan Bhaitani, an older Taliban fighter who had switched sides to ally with the government. The two men had held a jirga, or tribal meeting, with as many as a hundred elders of the Mehsud tribe in the town of Tank earlier this month in an effort to rally opposition to Mr. Mehsud. Officially, the Pakistani military denies supporting Mr. Zainuddin or Turkestan Bhaitani.
When the Islamo Fascists start killing fellow Muslim leaders it is usually a sign of desperation. It has signaled the demise of the violent strain of Islamists, as it did in Anbar Province in Iraq. The blood purges usually mean the violent extremists have lost local support.Â
I suspect the noose is ever tightening around the necks of the extreme Taliban and al Qaeda forces huddling in their last sanctuary inside the Waziristan region of Pakistan.
Update: Here is a very good CBS News report (I don’t say THAT often) on what the Pakistan Army faces in its next (maybe last) phase of purging the tribal region of Islamo Fascist terrorists:
The hillside camp offers rare insight into conditions, tools and tactics being used by insurgents against government troops in the picturesque, northwestern Swat Valley for about the past two years.
It may also be a foreboding sign of the much tougher fight to come as the military moves into the grotto- and tunnel-ridden tribal region on the Afghan border, the scene of the next anti-Taliban operation and where battle-hardened militants have had much longer to dig in.
In another worrying sign, commanders and experts warn that some of the most formidable Taliban leaders and fighters who have escaped from Swat may be heading for the tribal zone of South Waziristan.
Actually, herding the cattle to the slaughter is a good thing. The Taliban and al Qaeda forces have been retreating into the Waziristan region from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. It makes it so much easier to have them encircled by the Pakistan forces to the south and the US/NATO forces to the north along the Afghan border.
I think it is highly probable these strategic strikes are the opening salvo – the air war phase if you will – against the Taliban and al Qaeda hard core. In fact, the Pakistani air force has been pounding the region for a while now.
Pakistani fighter jets have pounded a number of militant positions in South Waziristan, killing at least eleven pro-Taliban insurgents.Â
As a full-scale anti-militants offensive in South Waziristan is yet to begin, army jets and helicopters seem to be preparing the ground by attacking militant hideouts in recent days. A fresh round of aerial attacks took place on Monday.Â
I suspect ground forces will be moving in soon to clean out the rats once and for all.
Update: Yep, a major military pincer action is getting underway. As the Pakistanis and US soften up the terrorists in Waziristan, NATO forces are moving on the remaining Taliban holdouts in southern Afghanistan:
British soldiers in Afghanistan say they have moved into one of the last Taliban strongholds in southern Helmand province with a major air assault. NATO says the recent deployment of additional U.S. troops in the region helped make the operation possible.Â
Afghanistan’s NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, known as ISAF, says more than 500 troops took part in Operation Panther’s Claw, which began just before midnight Friday.
ISAF says the mission was designed to clear and hold one of the last remaining Taliban strongholds in southern Helmand province.Â
“The aim of the operation was to secure a number of canal and river crossings in order to establish a permanent ISAF (NATO) presence in the area, which has previously been a Taliban stronghold,” he said.
The noose is definitely tightening.