The Obama administration says it killed one civilian and 431-441 combatants in counterterrorism strikes last year – contrasting slightly with the Bureau’s estimate of four to six civilians and 358-501 combatants.
President Barack Obama chairs a Cabinet meeting (White House/ Pete Souza)
The events detailed here occurred in 2013. These have been reported by US or Pakistani government, military and intelligence officials, and by credible media, academic and other sources, including on occasion Bureau researchers. Below is a summary of CIA drone strikes and casualty estimates for 2013. Please note that our data changes according to our current understanding of particular strikes. Below represents our present best estimate.
CIA strikes – Obama 2013
|Total CIA drone strikes||27|
|Total reported killed:||109-195|
|Civilians reported killed:||0-4|
|Children reported killed:||0-1|
|Total reported injured:||43-89|
Ob306 – January 2 2013
♦ 6-11 reported killed
♦ Unknown injured
In one of their most significant recent strikes, CIA drones killed Maulvi Nazir, the powerful leader of a so-called ‘good Taliban’ faction, in a late evening (1035pm) attack near Wana in South Waziristan. The Express Tribune said the attack was ‘perhaps the most prized feather in [the] cap’ of the drone programme. Also reported killed were Nazir’s five sub-commanders, including deputies Maulvi Atta Ullah and Rafey (or Rapa) Khan, Allauddin, Ihsan and up to six others. The Tribune also named two local commanders, Kochai and Chewantee, among the dead.
Taliban commander Eynollah Khan told Express Tribune: ‘Mullah Nazir became a target of the American drone [strikes] when he was coming back to Wana after completing a survey on [an] American base in Afghanistan.’ The New York Times reported that Nazir’s vehicle was struck as it travelled on the Birmal-Wana road. A senior Pakistani intelligence official told the paper: ‘He has been killed. It is confirmed. The vehicle he was travelling in was hit.’ However other sources including the Guardian said Nazir died when a house was struck during a meeting of senior leaders. Wana mosques announced the death of the popular leader over loudspeakers, and as many as 10,000 people reportedly attended Nazir’s funeral the next day, local sources told AP. Bahwal Khan aka Ayubi was named as his successor.
Maulvi Nazir had long been a target of the United States, and almost all recent drone strikes in South Waziristan were aimed at his forces. While Nazir maintained peaceful relations with Islamabad (leading to the ‘good Taliban’ label) he had used Waziristan as a base to launch attacks on US, Nato and Afghan forces across the border for many years. Some analysts predicted that Nazir’s death, although a tactical success for the CIA, might increase instability and violence in the region, at least initially.
AFP reported that senior Pakistani security officials were locked in talks about the implications of Nazir’s death. One told the agency: ‘There will be a setback in a way. He was one of those who were keeping his area under effective control and preventing the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan [TTP] from operating there. So it will make a difference.’ Dawn reported that ‘thousands’ protested in Wana against US drone strikes on January 5.
On the same day as Nazir’s killing a US court rejected a Freedom of Information request by the New York Times and ACLU calling for the US government to reveal the legal basis of covert drone strikes. US District Court Judge Colleen McMahon said in a written statement that an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ situation presently exists in which the US can claim such strikes to be legal, while keeping secret the basis of such claims:
I can find no way around the thicket of laws and precedents that effectively allow the Executive Branch of our government to proclaim as perfectly lawful certain actions that seem on their face incompatible with our Constitution and laws, while keeping the reasons for their conclusion a secret.
Three weeks after Nazir’s death a ‘bullet-riddled‘ body was dumped by a road in South Waziristan. The victim was responsible for the deaths of five high-ranking Taliban militants including Maulvi Nazir, a note found on the corpse claimed. The alleged spy was Afghan national Asmatullah Kharoti. ‘He presented Nazir and others digital Holy Quran as a gift which were fitted with chips which help US drones strike their targets,’ a Taliban fighter told AFP. Kharoti’s body was dumped next to the Ajab Noor Mosque in Wana Rustham Bazaar, where Nazir survived a suicide bombing in December 2012.
Location: Sara Khwara, South Waziristan
Reference: Reuters, Associated Press, Al Arabiya, New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, RTT News, Wired, New York District Court (pdf), Sky News, PTI, Los Angeles Times, Voice of America, Frontier Post, Dawn, Guardian, BBC, The News, AFP, NBC News, Bureau, UPI, Telegraph, Express Tribune, Al Jazeera, Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, The Times (£), Xinhua/ANI, The News, Dawn, Bureau
Mauvli Nazir interviewed by al Jazeera before his death.
Ob307 – January 3 2013
♦ 3-6 reported killed
♦ 1 reported injured
A double missile strike on a vehicle near Mir Ali, North Waziristan, reportedly killed four people, reportedly including Faisal Khan, a local leader of the Pakistan Taliban (TTP). Also killed with him, according to the Washington Post, were two ‘Uzbek militants’; Express Tribune put the toll at six and named two more of the dead as Israr Mehsud and Latif. According to Associated Press, ‘one missile hit a vehicle near the town, followed by another missile when people rushed to the vehicle to help people in the car.’ CNN also reported that drones targeted rescuers. The deliberate targeting of first responders by the CIA is controversial, and is presently being investigated by UN experts as a possible war crime. However The News reported instead: ‘Tribal sources said the drone fired four missiles on the speeding pick-up truck. Three missiles missed the target but the fourth hit it.’
Location: Murbarak Shahi, North Waziristan
Reference: Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, Frontier Post, Dawn, AFP, UPI, Express Tribune, Al Jazeera, The News, Reuters, New York Times, BBC, AFP, al Jazeera, LA Times, Bureau
Ob308 – January 6 2013
♦ 8-18 reported killed
♦ 3-7 reported injured
The CIA continued its New Year offensive with the third strike in five days – possibly the bloodiest attack in 88 days (Ob297). Between 8 and 18 people were reported killed when up to five US drones fired multiple missiles in a pre-dawn strike (2.30am). The unmanned aircraft battered the Babar Ghar area of South Waziristan according to several reports. The target was reportedly an alleged militant training camp run by Hakimullah Mehsud, leader of the Pakistani Taliban (TTP). One of the commanders present was reportedly a cousin of the TTP leader. Pakistani intelligence officials told Associated Press he was Wali Muhammad Mahsud (aka Toofan); Dawn reported he died in the attack. They alleged he trained TTP suicide bombers. Others killed were described as ‘Punjabi Taliban’. Two or three locations were reportedly targeted in the strike – the buildings were said to have caught fire leaving bodies burnt beyond recognition. NBC News cautioned the death toll could rise as ‘dozens’ of alleged militants were present. Civilians who rushed to the site to search for survivors reported several drones remaining over the area.
This was the second drone strike in three days that reportedly targeted TTP militants. These strikes followed the January 2 killing of powerful militant leader Maulvi Nazir. His group had been labelled ‘good Taliban’ as they focused their operations on Nato and Afghan targets in Afghanistan. The TTP – so-called ‘bad Taliban’ – reportedly focus attacks on the Pakistani government and military. Associated Press reported this latest strike ‘may be less likely to anger the Pakistani military and public… because it targeted militants believed to have been going after targets in Pakistan and not in neighbouring Afghanistan.’ Cricketer turned presidential-hopeful Imran Khan condemned the strike. He said the government had turned Pakistan into a banana republic and called on Islamabad to ‘take the nation into confidence about the details and identify those killed in drone attack[s]’.
The TTP attacked a Pakistani Army outpost on February 2. A Taliban spokesman said the attack was in retaliation for the drone strikes that killed Wali Muhammad Mahsud and Faisal Khan. He added thatthe Pakistani state was supporting the US drone strikes. Up to 35 people died: 13 soldiers, 12 militants and at least 10 civilians, including three children. The TTP contested the death toll, saying only four suicide bombers took part in the attack although an ensuing fire-fight reportedly lasted for up to four hours. The circumstances of the civilian deaths were unclear. Reports conflicted over whether a suicide bomber destroyed a civilian home or if the house was hit by Pakistani rocket fire.
Location: Babar Ghar, South Waziristan
Reference: Associated Press, AFP, The News Tribe, Express Tribune, KUNA, Xinhua, Voice of America, PTI, NBC News, Times of India, RFE/RL, Zee News, Pakistan Today, Reuters, NBC News, BBC, Dawn, Dawn, CNN, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Press Release, Reuters, New York Times, BBC, AFP, al Jazeera, LA Times, Bureau
Ob309 – January 8 2013
♦ 4-9 reported killed
♦ 0-2 civilians, 0-1 child
♦ 1-4 reported injured
The civilian casualty figures included in this summary are based on the following reports: Unnamed senior Pakistani security official (Dawn).
In twin strikes CIA drones killed at least six people, including up to two reported civilians. There were conflicting accounts of the events that night. Some sources reported a single strike that killed up to nine people. But multiple sources reported up to 17 missiles were fired on two nearby but separate targets at least 15 minutes apart. The first attack killed at least four in Haider Khel village shortly after midnight. A mud house, home to an ‘important Taliban leader‘, was reportedly destroyed. One report stated two Taliban commanders were killed, although without clarifying in which strike.
An al Qaeda operative was reportedly killed in the strike – a tactical trainer from Somalia or the United Arab Emirates according to Reuters. The alleged al Qaeda militant was named as Sheikh Yaseen al Somali, the deputy commander of al Qaeda training in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He reportedly fled across the Afghan border to North Waziristan two years earlier. Dawn named him as Sheikh Yaseen al Kuwaiti. Citing a senior security official, the paper said he had married a local tribesman’s daughter who also died in the strike along with their daughter. The official added:
Eight missiles were fired on the compound he was living in with his family. His house has been turned into rubble.
An anonymous US intelligence official told the Long War Journal al Kuwaiti was a ‘key al Qaeda paramilitary commander’ who was ‘very high up the food chain’. He was reportedly a top commander and trainer for al Qaeda’s military wing the Lashkar al Zil, or Shadow Army.
Militants cordoned off the area after the attack, removing the bodies. The News cautioned ‘there was no confirmation’ that ‘a foreign militant was among the slain people’. There were also reports that two Uzbeks had died. The drones attacked before President Obama announced his nominee for CIA director was John Brennan, his chief counterterrorism advisor and a leading proponent of the drone programme. And the attack came after retired General Stanley McCrystal told Reuters: ‘What scares me about drone strikes is how they are perceived around the world.’ He added:
The resentment created by American use of unmanned strikes… is much greater than the average American appreciates. They are hated on a visceral level, even by people who’ve never seen one or seen the effects of one.
Michael Boyle, an Obama security adviser from the 2008 election campaign, also expressed misgivings about the drone programme. He said the use of armed drones needed to be challenged and the civilian casualty count was likely far higher than officially acknowledged, according to the Guardian. He said drones were ‘encouraging a new arms race that will empower current and future rivals and lay the foundations for an international system that is increasingly violent.’
Location: Haider Khel near Mir Ali, North Waziristan
Reference: Associated Press, Reuters, BBC, Voice of America, Al Jazeera, AFP, Xinhua, The News Tribe, Ghana News Agency, PakTribune, Press Trust India, Punjab Newsline, Reuters, Guardian, Press Trust India, CNN, Dawn, The News, Express Tribune, Express Tribune, Long War Journal, Bureau
Ob310 – January 8 2013
♦ 0-9 reported killed
♦ 1-4 reported injured
The Agency’s drones killed at least two people in the second strike in nearby Hesso Khel village. Up to 11 missiles were fired on a ‘two room house‘ belonging to Noor Mohammed – his fate was not reported. An October 2013 Amnesty International field investigation found 4-9 people died in the attack, all ‘Taliban and/or al Qaeda’. Villagers said there was no way to tell the identity or nationality of the ‘mutilated bodies’. Many drones were reportedly seen overhead after the strike making tribesmen panic. They ‘rushed to the site and pulled out the bodies from the debris’. Three of the missiles failed to explode, reportedly a frequent occurrence. The unexploded ordinance was collected by ‘unknown people’ who took it ‘to an unknown location’.
However in January 2014 the Bureau published an internal record of drone strikes and casualties, collected by the local political administration. It listed no casualties in this attack.
Location: Hisokhel near Mir Ali, North Waziristan
Reference: Associated Press, BBC, Voice of America, Al Jazeera, AFP, Xinhua, The News Tribe, Ghana News Agency, PakTribune, Press Trust India, Punjab Newsline, Reuters, Guardian, Press Trust India, CNN, Dawn, The News, Express Tribune, Express Tribune, Amnesty International, Bureau
Ob311 – January 10 2013
♦ 3-6 reported killed
♦ ‘Several’ reported injured
At least four were killed in Hesso Khel, the second strike on the village in three days. A house was destroyed in the strike. According to AFP two missiles destroyed the house and two further missiles hit a nearby motorcycle. Four people died in the house and two on the motorbike, the agency added. None of the casualties were identified. ‘Six drones were in the sky at the time of the attack,’ a security official said, adding: ‘The compound was completely destroyed, bodies of all those killed were badly mutilated.’ A witness reported militants were seen collecting the burnt bodies.
The area is reportedly dominated by militant Hafiz Gul Bahadur, ‘who is believed to be in a nonaggression pact with the Pakistani military.’ CIA drones have struck the village at least six times since 2004. Although this was the sixth strike in 10 days, the Pakistani government remained noticeably quiet, according to Associated Press. Throughout 2012 drone strikes were met with loud condemnation from Islamabad. The Pakistani government called in the US Chargé d’Affaire to officially complain in June. And senior Pakistani diplomats told the Bureau the strikes were illegal and were undermining Pakistani democracy. Religious hardliners were also silent, Associated Press reported, adding:
It’s unclear whether the current uptick has been caused by particularly valuable intelligence obtained by the CIA, or whether the warming of relations between the two countries has made strikes less sensitive.
Ob312 – February 6 2013
♦ 3-5 killed
♦ 0-2 civilians
♦ ‘Several’ reported injured
The civilian casualty figures included in this summary are based on the following reports: Unnamed local Pakistani officials (Pakistan Today)
After a 27-day pause, CIA drones reportedly destroyed a house and damaged others nearby, killing at least three people. Between two and six missiles reportedly hit the building, which caught fire, at noon. The strike injured an unknown number of people in one of several nearby houses that were damaged by the blast. One report said the strike killed five, including ‘three suspected militants’. The house was occupied by alleged TTP militants. The strike coincided with a Pakistan Air Force attack on TTP targets in Orakzai Tribal Agency.
However the following month three anonymous US officials said this and the subsequent strike (Ob311) were not carried out by the US. They told the New York Times it was a Pakistan Air Force strike that was attributed to the CIA to avoid criticism from the Pakistani public. One official said: ‘We haven’t had any kinetic activity since January.’ They said the Pakistan Air Force was responsible for at least the February 6 strike. And they said the second strike ‘could have been the Taliban fighting among themselves. Or it could have been simply bad reporting.’ A Pakistan military source told the New York Times: ‘The Pakistan Air Force does not generally undertake stand-alone strikes such as these because it is not equipped with the appropriate strike weapons.’ The paper also reported the US gives the Pakistani military 30 minutes notice of drone strikes in South Waziristan.
But a Pakistani military spokesman strongly denied Pakistan carried out the strike, saying: ‘Such an accusation is a distortion of the facts and seems to be aimed at diluting Pakistan’s stance on drone strikes.’ The Long War Journal subsequently reported ‘US intelligence officials involved with the drone program in Pakistan’ said both strikes were ‘US operations’.
Anonymous officials in Miranshah told Pakistan Today that three people died instantly when the building was ‘razed to the ground’. A Pakistan intelligence official said militants surrounded the site and moved the bodies to an unidentified location. However it was also reported that locals recovered five bodies from the debris. Express Tribune reported civilians immediately rushed to the site. This was contradicted by a report that said residents were initially reluctant to ‘leave their houses’ because drones hovered over the area after the strike, delaying the rescue effort.
The previous day, US Department of Justice memo was leaked to the press, explaining some of the secret legal justification for drone strikes. The day of the strike, Pakistan’s Ambassador to Washington denied her government secretly allows CIA drone strikes.
Location: Spinwan, North Waziristan
Reference: AFP, Xinhua, Dawn, KUNA, IANS, The Nation (Pakistan), PTI, Pakistan Today, Long War Journal, Pakistan Today, CNN, EFE, BNO, New York Times, Dawn, Inter-Services Public Relations Press Release
Ob313 – February 8 2013
♦ 6-9 killed
♦ 2-6 injured
CIA drones reportedly killed at least six in a strike on the North-South Waziristan border. Two senior al Qaeda commanders, Abu Majid al Iraqi and Sheikh Abu Waqas, were reportedly killed. Abu Waqas (35) was said to be a Yemeni bombmaking expert who was involved in ‘high profile attacks on US and Isaf forces’. Four alleged Uzbek militants also reported died. Pakistan security officials and tribal sources said drones hit one or two houses in the attack.
There were confused reports of the immediate aftermath. A Miranshah security official said militants surrounded the area after the attack, while News Tribe reported that drones lingering overhead delayed rescue work. But Xinhua said locals ‘rushed to the site and pulled out the bodies and injured from the rubble.’ The area was reportedly ‘inhabited by the Hakimullah Mehsud-led TTP fighters and also foreigners’. This strike came the day after incoming CIA director John Brennan’s senate hearing. Brennan is viewed as one of the chief architects of the rapid expansion of the drone programme under Obama.
The following month conflicting reports of the attack emerged. Three anonymous US officials told the New York Times this and the previous strike (Ob310) were not carried out by the US. One official said: ‘We haven’t had any kinetic activity since January’. Sources told the paper the first strike had been carried out by the Pakistani military while the second could be ‘militants fighting among themselves’. A Pakistani military spokesman strongly denied the report, and the Long War Journal later cited US intelligence officials saying both strikes were ‘US operations’.
Location: Babar Ghar, South Waziristan
Reference: Dawn, AFP, Xinhua, PTI, Associated Press, Al Jazeera, News Tribe, NBC, AFP, Parda Phash, PTI, News Tribe, AFP, Express Tribune, The News, Gulf Today, Associated Press, Dawn, Xinhua, New York Times, Dawn, Inter-Services Public Relations Press Release, Long War Journal, Bureau
Ob314 – March 10 2013
♦ 1-3 killed
♦ ‘Several’ others reported injured
Up to three people died in a drone strike, although reports differed on the circumstances. Several reports said men riding on a horse were attacked, killing them and the horse instantly. However three unnamed officials told the Associated Press that a single horse-borne alleged ‘foreign militant’ was killed. Other reports said two alleged militants were killed when drones destroyed a house. Rescue work was reportedly delayed as drones hovered over the area after the strike. AFP reported a house and a man on horseback were targeted. And The News initially reported a house was targeted but subsequently said two alleged militants were killed on a motorcycle.
A Pakistani official said: ’We don’t know the identity of those killed, and our local contacts say the bodies were unrecognisable.’ And a Taliban source said: ‘I cannot confirm their nationality and group affiliation at the moment’. The News reported ’there were strong indications that both were foreign fighters’. The drones reportedly struck at either 8.35am or 8.50am. Shortly after the strike ‘unrest erupted among local and foreign militants’ in the area, according to one report. The strike hit the day before UN special rapporteur Ben Emmerson’s three-day visit to Islamabad.
Location: Mohammad Khel, North Waziristan
References: News Tribe, Associated Press, The Nation, PTI, New York Times, Voice of America, RFE/RL, Pakistan Today, Dawn, AFP, Express Tribune, The News, AFP, The News, The Nation, Pakistan Today, Xinhua, UN OHRC Statement, Bureau
Ob315 – March 21 2013
♦ 1-4 killed
♦ 1 reported injured
Drones killed up to four people in an attack on either a house or a vehicle. Most sources said three or four people died. However in January 2014 the Bureau published an internal assessment of drone strikes compiled by the local political authority. It listed three people killed in a strike on a ‘double cab pickup laden with ammunition’.
According to AP, CIA drones destroyed a vehicle in a bazaar, killing three occupants. It was travelling from the Afghan border to Datta Khel. Taliban commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur dominates the area but ‘it was not clear if the drone strike had targeted his group.’ The New York Times reported that four men were killed driving through a bazaar. The missiles hit just before midnight – an unusual hour for people to be moving about in the volatile region, the paper’s tribal source added. An intelligence official told the paper only one person was killed. AFP and PTI also reported a vehicle was destroyed.
However Dawn, The News Tribe and Xinhua reported a house was hit. A drone fired two missiles at the building, killing four and injuring one, according to Xinhua. The strike reportedly destroyed the house completely and damaged nearby buildings. Neighbours rushed to the site soon after the attack to start rescue work.
It was the first reported drone attack since UN special rapporteur Ben Emmerson said the strikes violate Pakistani sovereignty because Islamabad does not consent to the attacks. The strike came amid speculation the White House planned to shift control of the drone programme from the CIA to the Pentagon. The day of the strike, General James Cartwright, the former vice-chairman of Obama’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the ‘aggressive campaign of drone strikes could be undermining long-term efforts to battle extremism.’
Location: Datta Khel, North Waziristan
References: Dawn, PTI, Radio Pakistan, Associated Press, BBC, AFP, The News, QNA, The News Tribe, Xinhua, Voice of America, New York Times, RTT News, The Nation (Pakistan), Bureau
Ob316 – April 14 2013
♦ 4-6 killed
♦ ‘Several’ reported injured
At least four people were killed in the first drone strike for 24 days. Tribesmen reported as many as six drones hovering over the area ‘since the afternoon, spreading panic among the residents’. One drone ‘fired two missiles at the time of sunset’, a local security official said. They reportedly hit 15 minutes apart, although intelligence officials said three missiles hit the building. Hashim Khan, a local tribesman, told NBC News five bodies were recovered from the debris ‘when two drones flying over the area disappeared’.
The missiles hit a house in the Manzarkhel area of Datta Khel. Officials and witnesses said the strike hit ‘after a double-cabin pickup truck entered the premises’. Haji Gul Badin, a local shopkeeper, said: ‘The bodies of the militants were severely burnt and it was hard to identify them.’ However two Pakistan intelligence officials said: ‘Two foreign militants believed to have been residing in the house were among those killed.’ After the strike militants reportedly moved the bodies to an unknown location. This was the third consecutive strike to hit a target in Datta Khel, a village close to the Afghan border and around 40km from Miranshah, the main population centre in North Waziristan. Sources within the political administration told Dawn the four dead were members of a militant group controlled by Hafiz Gul Bahadur.
This was the first CIA drone strike since Mir Hazar Khan Khoso (84) was selected as caretaker prime minister, running an interim administration until elections on May 11. In a statement, the Pakistani government said it ‘strongly condemns [the] US drone attack’. It added: ‘Such unilateral attacks are in contravention of International Law and counterproductive to the stability of this country.’
On April 20, tweets by two alleged militants named as Al Wathiq Billah and Barod claimed al Qaeda intelligence chief Abu Ubaydah Abdullah al Adam had died in a strike on North Waziristan, according to SITE Intelligence. Although Barod’s tweet suggested al Adam had died in a strike on the day of the tweet, no strikes were reported on April 20; Ob314 is the closest North Waziristan strike. An unnamed US intelligence officer told the Long War Journal al Adam was a ‘very dangerous operative’ who was ‘on the target list’, adding: ‘He is essentially al Qaeda’s intelligence and internal security chief.’ Al Adam was a Palestinian national raised in Saudi Arabia, The News reported. He had replaced Mohammad Khalil Hasan al Hakaymah (aka Abu Jehad al Misri) on his death in a drone strike on November 1 2008 (B38).
Location: Newey Adda, North Waziristan
References: CNN, Express Tribune, Frontier Post, Geo TV, Dawn, Xinhua, The News, AFP, NBC News, The Nation, IANS, PTI, Associated Press, The News Tribe, Associated Press, Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, KUNA, EFE, GNA, SANA, Long War Journal, The News, Bureau
Ob317 – April 17 2013
♦ 4-6 people killed
♦ 2-7 people reported injured
At least four people died when at least two and up to twelve missiles destroyed a house or Taliban training camp in a pre-dawn strike on either Babar Ghar or Sararogha village, near Wana. There were fears the death toll could rise as people reportedly remained trapped in the rubble. Locals dug dead and injured out of the wreckage but the rescue work was reportedly delayed by fear the drones would strike again. All those killed were alleged militants, but reports differed as to which militant group occupied the house. Some said members of the Pakistani Taliban or TTP were killed. One report said Madni, a local TTP commander, was killed along with five unnamed militants. But a local security official said the dead were al Qaeda fighters.
The strike came the morning after Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, criticised the use of drones outside conflict zones. Using drones themselves is not a problem, he told reporters in Geneva. ‘But if a drone is used in a country where there is no armed conflict… there is a problem.’ He was speaking with journalists after returning from meeting President Obama in Washington.
Location: Babar Ghar, South Waziristan
References: IANS, The Nation (Pakistan), Dawn, al Jazeera, al Arabiya, Xinhua, AFP, UPI, The News, The News Tribe, Frontier Post, Associated Press, Bureau, PTI, The Nation (Pakistan), Pakistan Today, The News, RFE/RL, Khaama Press, KUNA, Bureau
Ob318 – May 29 2013
♦ 3-7 people killed
♦ 1-4 people reported injured
After a 42-day pause, a strike reportedly killed Wali ur Rehman, second-in-command of the Pakistan Taliban (TTP). At least three others died in the attack in the Miranshah area of North Waziristan. Reports suggested they were also senior Taliban militants. Rehman’s close aide Fakhar ul Islam (aka Fakhr i Alam) was reportedly killed along with Nasarullah, Shahabuddin and Saeedur. Adil and Nasiruddin (aka Naseer Ud Din) and Rehman also died, both reportedly Uzbeks. Wali ur Rehman was buried within hours and a committee elected a successor after the ceremony. Reuters reported Khan Said, 38, had served as Rehman’s deputy. He was allegedly involved in a 2011 attack on a Pakistan naval base in Karachi that killed 18 people. And he played a role in a 2012 prison break that saw up to 400 militants escape.
Rehman and his men carried out multiple attacks against the Pakistani state, killing soldiers and civilians. According to McClatchy, he had essentially run the TTP since December 2012 ‘when the leadership council effectively fired its leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, for ordering the assassination of another senior commander’. Mehsud had since been running his own, more radical militant faction, the agency reported. An unnamed Pakistani intelligence officer told the FT: ‘The Taliban will feel very vulnerable after this attack… This is crippling for their top command structure.’
However Rehman’s death also disrupted plans to open negotiations with the Taliban. Nawaz Sharif, prime minister-elect following elections on May 11, had pledged to negotiate with the TTP. He had approached the so-called ‘God-father’ of the Taliban, Sami ul Haq, to act as a go-between. But the TTP blamed Islamabad for Rehman’s killing and announced it would halt any talks with government. It also promised revenge on the Pakistani state. The elections had been marred by a TTP bombing campaign that killed up to 120, including 17 on polling day alone.
A public service announcement from US Rewards for Justice, broadcast by Voice of America.
A US State Department Rewards for Justice listing described Rehman as the TTP’s ‘chief military strategist’. It said he had ‘participated in cross-border attacks in Afghanistan against US and Nato personnel’. He was wanted for his involvement in the December 30 2009 suicide bombing of a CIA base in Khost, Afghanistan, which killed seven CIA agents. The US listed him as a fugitive in 2010 and put a $5m (£3.3m) bounty on him. Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement that did not address Rehman’s death directly. But it ‘expressed serious concerns over the US drone attack’ and reiterated the government’s long-held position that the strikes ‘violate the principles of national sovereignty, territorial integrity and international law’.
The attack came six days after President Obama unveiled a new drone policy. He defended the use of drones and admitted civilians had died in strikes, saying that civilian casualties were a necessary risk. He announced new guidelines governing covert drone strikes, and briefing documents released by the White House summarised five rules controlling lethal actions. Strikes could only target individuals who posed ‘a continuing, imminent threat to US persons’. White House spokesman Jay Carney read out a portion of the speech related to standards for action in response to questions from reporters after the strike. According to CNN he said the US ‘will continue to take strikes against high value al Qaeda targets, but also against forces that are massing to support attacks on coalition forces’.
The attack reportedly hit a mud-built house at 3am leaving bodies that were ‘badly damaged and beyond recognition’. Militants reportedly immediately sealed off the area and recovered bodies from the debris. Bur local resident Bashir Dawar said: ‘Tribesmen started rescue work an hour after the attack and recovered seven bodies.’ The injured were reportedly moved to a nearby hospital and said to be in a critical condition; some reports said three people died of their injuries in hospital. The location of the strike was not clear. According to a resident, the attack hit a house in Miranshah and militants took six coffins to a village called Chashma, 3km (2 miles) to the east. However Pakistani security officials and Pashtun tribesmen said two missiles hit a mud house in Chashma.
Location: Chashma, North Waziristan
References: AFP, Reuters, Associated Press, New York Times, NBC News, Washington Post, Jagran Post, BBC, Deutsche Presse Agentur, Pakistan Today, News Pakistan, Khaama Press, Voice of America, ANI, Xinhua, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, The News, RFE/RL, News Tribe, PTI, Rewards for Justice, CBS, Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Associated Press Guardian, CNN, BBC, The Nation (Pakistan), Independent, CNN, Financial Times, RFE/RL, Associated Press, Reuters, Washington Post, CTC Sentinel, Bureau
Channel 4 News reports on the killing of Wali Ur Rehman.
Ob319 – June 7 2013
♦ 7-11 people killed
♦ 2-4 people injured
A night-time strike reportedly killed at least seven alleged militants and wounded others on the border of North and South Waziristan, Pakistani intelligence officials said. ‘The US drone fired two missiles targeting a militant compound and killing at least seven militants,’ an unnamed senior intelligence official told AFP. The dead included ‘some high value target’, an unnamed official told Dawn, adding that two missiles hit a home in the village of Mangroati in the Shawal tehsil (area). Other reports named the village as Shokhel. The strike took place ‘shortly after sunset in a forested area’, the Washington Post reported, while Xinhua cited Urdu TV channel Dunya saying the drone attacked at 10pm. Reuters reported nine died, although most other outlets put the death toll at seven.
The attack was later reported to have killed a ‘key Pakistan Taliban commander’ named Mutaqi aka (Bahadar Khan), according to Dawn, adding that intelligence intercepts showed Mutaqi and his men ‘were planning to cross over into Afghanistan via Pash Ziarat valley’. However the News International reported that the strike took place as a vehicle was arriving from Afghanistan. An unnamed local official said: ‘A vehicle was coming from the Afghan border and was about to enter the house when the drone fired two missiles and hit it and the house as well.’
In March 2014 the Bureau was given a Pakistani intelligence assessment of the strike that listed Mutaqi’s markaz, or base of operations, but that the commander survived. It listed 11 Pakistanis killed, all allegedly members of the TTP:
The assessment also listed alleged Pakistani TTP members Darwaish and Janab Khan as injured in the attack.
The attack came two days after new prime minister Nawaz Sharif used his inaugural address to call for an end to drone strikes. ‘We respect the sovereignty of others and they should respect our sovereignty and independence. This campaign must come to an end,’ he told MPs. The following day, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry summoned Richard Hoagland, deputy chief of the US mission in Pakistan, to protest at the strike, on Sharif’s instructions. Tariq Fatimi, a special adviser on foreign affairs, met with Hoagland to convey Pakistan’s objections, according to a government statement.
Location: Shawal NWA, North Waziristan
References: Associated Press, BBC, BBC, AFP, Dawn, Reuters, Associated Press, KUNA, Frontier Post, New York Times, Washington Post, Long War Journal, Geo TV, The Nation, Xinhua, Khaama Press, The News Tribe, Associated Press, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dawn, Long War Journal, Express Tribune, The News International, Express Tribune, Bureau, Bureau (intelligence source)
On March 17 2011 a US signature strike killed at least 26 people gathered in a bus shelter in Datta Khel, North Waziristan. The group was made up of tribal elders who had convened a jirga – or council – to resolve a dispute over a nearby chromite mine. In June 2013 Brave New Films released a short film exploring the strike and its consequences on the survivors and their community.
Ob320 – July 3 2013
♦ 16-18 reported killed
♦ 5 reported injured
At least 16 people were killed when CIA drones hit a house and vehicle in or around the Miranshah bazaar. Casualty figures were low in initial reports but rose as the day wore on. In October 2013 an Amnesty International field investigation found 16 people killed in the strike were ‘Afghan Taliban, Punjabi Taliban, and foreign fighters’.
Three weeks after the attack anonymous ‘senior American officials‘ told APthe US had cut the number of attacks and tightened its targeting policy as a concession to the Pakistan army. AP said this attack typified this more cautious approach. The strike was reportedly based on ‘hugely detailed’ intelligence ‘laid out in a 32-page PowerPoint presentation’. According to the report:
The intelligence indicated the target was a gathering of militants from the Haqqani network who were plotting a second attack on the Ariana Hotel in the Afghan capital of Kabul, said the official. The Ariana Hotel has long been suspected of being used by the CIA as a listening post.
Anonymous officials told Spanish agency EFE the Haqqani commander Sher Khan died in the attack. Afghan or Central Asian militants and Punjabi Taliban fighters were also reportedly killed. Several outlets later reported the names of four more alleged militants: Abu Saif al Jaziri (aka Abu Saif al Jazari, Abu Yousaf Aljaziri), Maulana Akhtar Zadran, Rana Ashraf and Navid Butt.
The Long War Journal spoke to US intelligence officials who would neither confirm nor deny the men died in the strike. However, one of the anonymous intelligence sources said al Jaziri was a ‘mid-level paramilitary commander’ in al Qaeda; other reports described him as an al Qaeda commander or operative.
Another anonymous source said Zadran was a senior Haqqani Network commander. Ashraf was reportedly from Sargodha in Pakistan’s Punjab province. And Butt was reportedly from Lahore, also in Punjab, near the border with India. Both were described as either Punjabi militants or Punjabi commanders. Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said no TTP militants were killed.
The attack either hit at about 1am local time, or late the previous day. It was the first strike in 24 days and was probably the most lethal to date in 2013: a strike in January (Ob306) killed 8-18 people. Four missiles were reportedly fired. The blast ‘jolted the entire town’, resident Nasrullah Khan told NBC News. ‘I never heard such a huge drone strike before.’
One report said the house had been built only a month before the strike. It reportedly belonged to senior Haqqani commander Haji Shahrifullah who survived the attack according. But a separate source described the building as a motel, adding the casualties – alleged militants – had been staying there for some time and would patrol the surrounding streets in the daytime. And a third source said the house was being used as an informal Sharia court. Irrespective of its prior use, the building was reportedly flattened.
Islamabad’s foreign ministry protested the strike as a violation of sovereignty. It said: ‘The Government of Pakistan has consistently maintained that drone strikes are counter-productive, entail loss of innocent civilian lives and have human rights and humanitarian implications.’
Location: Danda Darpakhel, North Waziristan
References: Daily Times, Dawn, Associated Press, AFP, PTI, Xinhua, The News, Associated Press, CNN, AFP, Reuters, Guardian, The News, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Xinhua, PTI, BBC, New York Times, NBC News, The News, The News Tribe, Dawn, Dawn, McClatchy, EFE, Pakistan Today, Express Tribune, Defense World, Dawn, Long War Journal, Dawn, Express Tribune, The News, Associated Press, Amnesty International, Bureau
Ob321 – July 13 2013
♦ 2-3 reported killed
A drone strike killed two alleged militants riding on a motorcycle and damaged nearby buildings in the village of Mosaki, near Mir Ali. The attack took place at around 11.30pm, according to the New York Times. ‘Both of the militants on the motorbike were killed on the spot,’ a Pakistani intelligence official told the newspaper. ‘The drone fired two missiles that also damaged a nearby house, but no casualty has so far been reported inside it.’ Some local media reported that the missiles hit a compound and killed ‘at least’ three. Xinhua reported that separate missiles had hit a motorbike, killing two, and a building, killing one. Residents told The News International that two had died; unknown men arrived and took away the bodies of the dead men. The report added: ‘foreign fighters in the Pakistani tribal areas have been using motorbikes instead of cars and double cabin pickup trucks for travelling to reduce casualties in drone strikes’, according to tribal sources.
An unnamed official told Reuters the two men were ‘probably Arab nationals’, although another anonymous official told AFP the authorities were ‘verifying reports’ that the dead men were from Turkmenistan. There was no information on the affiliation of the alleged militants, although the Long War Journal noted the area is ‘in the sphere of influence of Abu Kasha al Iraqi, an al Qaeda leader who serves as a key link to the Taliban and supports al Qaeda’s external operations network’.
Ob322 – July 28 2013
♦ 5-8 reported killed
♦ 2-4 reported injured
A drone fired missiles at a house in the Shawal Valley, killing between five and eight alleged militants. News reports carried different, apparently contradictory narratives of the strike. Locals told NBC the drone struck as a group gathered for iftar dinner – the breaking of the fast that takes place each night during Ramadan.’The militants, including Arab fighters, were having an Iftar dinner in the compound when the drone fired two missiles. Later, an hour after the drone had disappeared, a group of militants arrived and started pulling out bodies,’ tribesman Yasin Khan said. Four of the dead were Arabs, he added. The identities of those killed was not known as the attack caused a ‘huge fire’ in the building leaving the bodies ‘completely charred’. However Pakistani intelligence officials claimed the attack targeted five men who were crossing from Afghanistan into Pakistan on foot, according to the Associated Press. A militant commander told the New York Times the drones targeted ‘a group of 10 fighters had been returning from Afghanistan after a week of battle against coalition forces in that country’s Paktika Province’.
An unnamed Pakistani Taliban commander told Reuters three al Qaeda training experts were among the dead. He said they ran a camp in Afghanistan training militants for attacks including the July 29 jailbreak in Dera Ismail Khan in which at least 250 inmates escaped. The three trainers had reportedly crossed the border from Afghanistan to try to set up a training camp in Pakistan. The militant commander identified the three as Abu Rashid from Saudi Arabia, Muhammed Ilyas Kuwaiti from Kuwait and Muhammed Sajid Yamani from Yemen. Unnamed US officials would not confirm or deny the men had died.
In July 2014 Newsweek Pakistan interviewed the widow of an Uzbek fighter who purportedly died a year before the story was published in a drone strike in the Shawal area. This and Ob319 most closely match that description. Khadija Bibi, an Uzbek national, told the magazine her husband “was a skilled warrior who had strong connections with al Qaeda.” She added: “My husband had no relations with the local militants.”
Three days before the strike anonymous US officials told the Associated Press the US was scaling back drone strikes in the tribal regions and only targeting high-profile militants in a bid to appease the Pakistani army. The Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the attack, saying ‘such strikes also set dangerous precedents in the inter-state relations’ in a statement, adding: ‘These drone strikes have a negative impact on the mutual desire of both countries to forge a cordial and cooperative relationship and to ensure peace and stability in the region.’
Location: Shawal, North Waziristan
References: NBC News, Associated Press, Geo TV, Xinhua, New York Times, Associated Press, Express Tribune, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dawn, AFP, Reuters, Long War Journal, Amnesty International, Bureau, Newsweek Pakistan
The Taliban broke about 250 prisoners out of a prison in Dera Ismail Khan after a violent assault. Many senior militants were believed to have escaped with reports the attackers were calling out to specific inmates once inside the prison (Al Jazeera/YouTube).
Ob323 – August 31 2013
♦ 3-4 reported killed
♦ 1-3 reported injured
At least three alleged militants were killed in an attack on either a vehicle near a seminary or a house in the Mir Ali area. One person was reported critically injured and taken to Mir Ali hospital. The strike, which took place at around 12.30pm, ‘destroyed the vehicle and severely damaged the walls of the seminary’, multiple sources told Dawn. One source reported a drone hit a house and a motorcycle. An unnamed official added that the dead were all from Turkmenistan. They were believed to belong to the Islamic Movement of Turkmenistan, affiliated to local commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur. The New York Times reported the building had once been a religious school run by Bahadur. Geo TV reported that two missiles were instead fired at a home, ‘after which the house caught fire’. The Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs once again complained about the strike in a statement. The Long War Journal reported a militant group Ansarul Mujahideen killed nine Pakistani soldiers in revenge for this drone attack.
Location: Mosaki, North Waziristan
References: Dawn, Geo TV, Long War Journal, The News Tribe, New York Times, Frontier Post, PTI, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Xinhua, Reuters, AFP, Long War Journal, Bureau
Ob324 – September 6 2013
♦ 5-7 reported killed
♦ 3-7 reported injured
At least five alleged militants were killed in the second drone strike in a week. Two or three missiles were fired on a house that intelligence sources said belonged to the Haqqani Network in an area reportedly under Haqqani control. Anonymous intelligence officials said ‘seven badly burnt and mutilated bodies were pulled from the wreckage after the drones disappeared’. However it emerged a senior Haqqani Network commander and three al Qaeda militants were among the dead. Mullah Sangeen Zadran was reportedly the Taliban’s shadow governor of Paktika province in eastern Afghanistan. Some of the others killed were reportedly his bodyguards. He was a senior lieutenant to Haqqani Network leader Sirajuddin Haqqani, son the group’s founder and patriarch Jalaluddin. Analyst Saifullah Mahsud said:
‘Sangeen was running the show, practically… Siraj is the big name. But on the ground, whatever is conducted, is directed by Sangeen… He’s their most lethal commander. To get him, they’ve scored really big.’
Mosques in the area reportedly announced his funeral would take place at 3pm that day. According to the Wall Street Journal he was believed to have played a role in the capture of US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, the only US soldier held by the insurgents in Afghanistan. His brother or nephew Bilal Zadran, 35, was reportedly named as his successor. Bilal was a former spokesman for Mullah Omar, an expert bomb maker and spoke fluent English, according to the Frontier Post. The Long War Journal cautioned neither al Qaeda nor the Haqqani Network had commented on reports of Sangeen’s death, or of Bilal’s promotion. However an anonymous US intelligence official told the publication: ‘We believe we got him.’ ‘At some point, we expect he will be eulogized, given his prominence within the Haqqani Network and the Taliban, and due to his close relationship to al Qaeda,’ the official added.
An alleged Egyptian al Qaeda explosives expert, Zubair al Muzi (aka al Masri), 32, was also reportedly among the dead, along with two alleged Jordanian al Qaeda operatives: Abu Bilal al Khurasani and Abu Dujana al Khurasani. Two more dead men, Arshad Dawar and Ajmal Dawar, were reportedly ‘locals‘. Villagers reported ‘four seriously injured men were also recovered and taken to a hospital in Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan’. The targeted house was reportedly destroyed, and part of it caught fire.
Location: Darga Mandi, North Waziristan
References: IANS, BBC, Dawn, Pakistan Tribune, News Tribe, Reuters, AFP, NBC News, Xinhua, IANS, Voice of America, AFP, Wall Street Journal, Long War Journal, BBC, Frontier Post, Long War Journal, Express Tribune, New York Times, Xinhua, Washington Post, ABC, Bureau
Ob325 – September 22 2013
♦ 6-7 reported killed
♦ 2-4 reported injured
At least six people died in the first CIA drone strike for 16 days. Four missiles reportedly hit two houses. The identify of those killed was not immediately known, an anonymous Pakistani official said. Local TV news said the strike hit at 3pm local time. The houses were ‘reduced to debris‘, an anonymous security official in Miranshah told The News. He added that intercepted communications between militants led Pakistan intelligence to judge those killed were foreigners. A TTP source told The News all the dead were foreign militants. A local security official told Express Tribune ‘tribesmen from nearby houses rushed to the site of the attack immediately after and pulled out the casualties from the rubble’.
The strike’s target was unclear. It appeared to be somewhere in the heavily wooded Shawal valley, north or south of the border between the two Waziristans. The Shawal valley is a stronghold for militant groups reportedly administered by commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur.
The drone strike came on the day the suicide bombing of a crowded church in Peshawar killed up to 81 people. Jundullah, a violent militant group reportedly closely associated with the Taliban and al Qaeda, claimed responsibility (see B14). Jundullah commander Ahmed Marwat said: ‘Until drone strikes are stopped, we will continue with this. Consider this the first of our actions.’ He continued: ‘Whoever is non-Muslim will be targeted.’
Location: Palgai, North/South Waziristan border
References: AFP, The News, Xinhua, IANS, The Nation, Long War Journal, Express Tribune, The News, Pakistan Today, Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, Bureau
Ob326 – September 29 2013
♦ 3-6 reported killed
♦ 1-3 reported injured
At least three died when drones fired missiles on a house in North Waziristan. The strike hit around 11am; the house was destroyed. This was the second attack on Darga Mandi this month. The first, on September 6 (Ob324), killed an alleged commander in the Haqqani Network, Sangeen Zadran.
The Long War Journal reported those killed in this strike were also Haqqani Network commanders, based on the location of the attack. However the Associated Press and Dawn reported the dead and wounded were from Punjab province. The paper said they ‘were associated with militant commander Qari Abbas who was killed in an earlier drone strike on a car in the area’. It was not clear in exactly which strike Qari Abbas was killed. A Qari Abbas reportedly escaped from a Pakistani prison along 44 other people on July 29 2013.
According to The News rescuers rushed to the scene but reportedly only began work after three drones had stopped hovering over the site. They pulled three dead and two injured from the rubble, the report continued. One of the wounded people died after the rescue. The wounded were reportedly taken to Miranshah hospital in a critical condition.
The attack came two days after Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif told the UN General Assembly drone strikes violate his country’s borders. He added civilian casualties from the strikes were ‘detrimental to our resolve and efforts to eliminate extremism and terrorism from Pakistan’.
On the day of the strike at least 40 were killed in an appalling car bomb attack in Peshawar’s ‘oldest bazaar’. Both the TTP and a lesser known group Ansarul Mujahidin condemned the attack. It was the third bombing in the city in a week after terrorists attacked a church, killing at least 80, and a bus, killing at least 20. Ansarul Mujaihidin reportedly claimed responsibility for the bus bombing.
Location: Darga Mandi, North Waziristan
References: The News, AFP, Frontier Post, News Pakistan, Dawn, Long War Journal, KUNA, The Nation, Express Tribune, Xinhua, UN, Associated Press, Frontier Post, The News
Ob327 – September 30 2013
♦ 1-4 reported killed
♦ 2-4 reported injured
Drones hit North Waziristan for the second time in 24 hours, killing up to four. The drones again targeted a house, at about 4am local time according to one report. The area was reportedly a stronghold of militant commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur, said to be an ally of the Afghan Taliban
Ob328 – October 31 2013
♦ 0-5 reported killed
♦ 3 reported injured
US drones killed up to five and injured three more in the first strike in a month. The unmanned aircraft targeted a house and car in or near a bazaar in Miranshah. There were reportedly two large explosions and a senior security official said the vehicle was ablaze as local people tried to recover the dead and injured. The official alleged those killed were militants, although another source said bodies could not be immediately identified. Some initial reports of the strike predicted the death toll to rise. However unnamed Pakistani intelligence officials told the Associated Press no one was killed in the attack. And several sources put the death toll at three.
This was the first drone strike since Pakistan’s prime minister Nawaz Sharif met with Obama in Washington. Earlier in the month, two reports by UN special rapporteurs that criticised the US drone war were presented to the UN General Assembly. And the previous week, Amnesty International published a report naming 22 previously unidentified people killed in strikes in Pakistan. On October 30, Pakistan’s Ministry of Defence released data showing US drones had killed 67 civilians and 2,160 militants in 317 strikes since 2008. In March 2013, Pakistan’s foreign ministry gave UN investigator Ben Emmerson data showing at least 400 civilians had been killed since 2004. This figure closely matched the Bureau’s estimates, which showed more than 300 of the total reported civilians killed had died in 365 strikes since 2008.
Location: Zafar area of Miran Shah, North Waziristan
References: Express Tribune, KUNA, The News, AFP, PTI, Dawn, Dawn, Frontier Post, RFE/RL/AFP, Xinhua, CNN, Associated Press, Khaama Press, Pahjwok, The Nation (Pakistan), DPA, EFE, LA Times, AFP, The News
Ob329 – November 1 2013
♦ 4-7 reported killed
♦ 2 people reported injured
US drones reportedly killed TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud in a strike on his car or house a few miles from Miranshah. Between three and six others also died. An intelligence source told Reuters: ‘Among the dead, who are in large numbers, are Hakimullah’s personal bodyguard Tariq Mehsud and his driver Abdullah Mehsud, two of his closest people.’ According to an Islamabad-based think tank the strike also killed: Wali Muhammed, Hakimullah’s uncle and a Taliban commander; Wali Badsha, a bodyguard; and Sameedullah Mehsud and Saheel Mehsud, both Taliban militants.
Rumours of Hakimullah’s death swirled before senior militant sources, and unnamed Pakistani and US officials confirmed the reports. The Taliban published a picture of Hakimullah taken before he was buried in secret. The TTP ruling council selected a new leader a week after Hakimullah’s death. Shahidullah Shahid, a caretaker leader for the interim, announced the leader of the Swat Taliban Mullah Fazlullah was the groups new ’emir’. Fazlullah was driven from Swat in a bloody offensive by the Pakistan Army in 2009 and has been conducting his affairs from Afghanistan. He ordered the shooting Pakistani school girl and activist Malala Yousafzai. When making the announcement, Shahid said Faazlullah was ‘already against negotiations’, confirming any peace talks with the government were off. The Taliban promised retribution would follow the death.
Hakimullah assumed command of the TTP in August 2009 following the death of Baitullah Mehsud. He had been reported killed at least three times before (Ob59, Ob62, Ob257). And US intelligence officials initially told the Long War Journal they could not confirm if he had been killed in the strike.Early reports said drones targeted Mehsud in an attack on his house, his car, or as he left a mosque and walked to his car. It subsequently emerged he was killed as he returned to his house after a meeting with Taliban commanders.
His house was reportedly a $120,000 property with a decorative minaret. It was said to be within ‘light machine gun range‘ of the Pakistan Army base in Miranshah, testimony to the level of control the Taliban exerts over the area.The previous day, prime minister Nawaz Sharif announced that talks had started between his government and the TTP. Though he did not give any more detail of the negotiations, he said his government ‘could not wait and see the innocent people and members of law enforcement agencies being killed in the streets of Pakistan’. However the TTP denied any negotiations with the government. Spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said the TTP had had ‘no contact’ with the government.The strike provoked outcry among Pakistan’s politicians. Interior Minister Chaudry Nisar claimed the attack was a deliberate attempt to ‘murder‘ the peace talks.
Senators and cabinet ministers criticised the strike. And the US ambassador was called in to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. PTI, the ruling party in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said it would close the province’s borders to Nato supply convoys by November 20 unless drone strikes stopped. The New York Times pointed out a slight paradox in this threat: most of the convoys are leaving Afghanistan as Nato draws down its forces ahead of the 2014 withdrawal. Blocking the supply routes would slow down the withdrawal of US and allied troops.US Representative Mike Rogers defended the strike, saying ‘this was a bad guy’. He added: ‘There’s some information recently that concerned us about the safety of our troops. I feel a little better for our troops today than I did before this event happened.’ Secretary of State John Kerry would not comment on the strike. But he said of Mehsud: ‘This is a man who absolutely is known to have targeted and killed many Americans, many Afghans and many Pakistanis. A huge number of Pakistanis have died at the hands of Mehsud and his terrorist organisation.’
Location: Danda Darpakhel, North Waziristan
References: AFP, Associated Press, News Tribe, The News, Express Tribune, Express Tribune/AFP, The Nation, Associated Press, RTE, Reuters, Frontier Post, GeoTV, BBC, Dawn, Associated Press, ITV, Reuters, Long War Journal, al Jazeera, Associated Press, Reuters, New York Times, Dawn, Reuters, Reuters, Daily Telegraph, AFP, SANA, Conflict Monitoring Centre, Voice of America, CNN, Reuters, Reuters, New York Times, New York Times, Jihadology
Ob330 – November 21 2013
♦ 6-9 reported killed
♦ 1-8 reported injured
♦ Possible civilian casualties: children
At least six people died in the first strike outside Pakistan’s tribal agencies. CIA drones reportedly hit a madrassa at 5am, killing a number of named alleged militants including a senior Haqqani Network commander. Maulvi Ahmad Jan (aka Ahmed Jan) was confirmed to be among the dead. He was in his 50s or 60s and a member of the Haqqani Network’s ruling council. A senior Haqqani source told Reuters: ‘Yes it’s true, we lost another valuable figure this morning.’
The Guardian named four others killed in the strike: Maulvi Hamidullah (aka Hameedullah), an Afghan ‘special adviser’ to the Haqqani group; Maulvi Abdullah, an Afghan; Maulvi Abdur Rehman Mengal (aka Abdul Rehman), an Afghan; and Karim Khan. NBC News also identified five alleged Taliban commanders, with one difference to the Bureau source. NBC News said Maulvi Ghazi Marjan (aka Gul Marjan) was killed but did not name a Karim Khan among the dead. And Dawn named Kaleemullah among the dead, as well as Ahmed Jan, Hamidullah, Abdullah, Abdur Rehman, and Gul Marjan.
Qari Noor Wali was possibly killed. He was an Afghan and died in the attack according to Maulvi Naimatullah, the man running the seminary. But a named local resident said the madrassa was run by Qari Noorullah, who was reportedly injured in the strike. And an anonymous official said the madrassa was run by Qari Noor Mohammed, adding: ‘It was not clear if he was present in the seminary at the time of attack.’
Several unnamed pupils were reportedly killed in the strike – all adults, according to the Washington Post. NBC News reported four foreign casualties. Politician Imran Khan told reporters four children had been killed or injured in the attack. He said his political party would release their names and pictures although had yet to do so.
A security official told NBC: ‘Initially we thought that a suicide bomber had hit the madrassa but later we confirmed it was a drone attack.’ The mud building was reportedly made up of 12 or 15 rooms. The drone ‘flattened‘ one or two of them. According to Dawn missiles hit a room ‘near the main gate of the seminary’ three times in 15 minutes. As many as 200 students attended the madrassa and around 80 sleep there overnight. Eighty students reportedly escaped unharmed. The madrassa was said to have been used by refugees as well as militants affiliated to the Haqqani Network. A Haqqani source said the madrassa was also ‘a base for the network where militants fighting across the border came to stay and rest, as the Haqqani seminaries in the tribal areas were targeted by drones.’
An unnamed official told the Washington Post the strike did not target a madrassa but hit a ‘compound associated with the Haqqani Network’. The official said a madrassa was nearby but was not damaged in the attack. The US had seen no sign of civilian casualties, the official added.
The strike came the day after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s special adviser on foreign affairs declared the US would not launch drone strikes while Islamabad negotiated with the Taliban. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly condemned the drone strike. However the opposition blamed Sharif for the strike.
Location: Thal, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province
References: The Nation, BBC, Dawn, AFP, Xinhua, Geo, Geo TV, Associated Press, PTI, Reuters, Al Jazeera America, Washington Post, Dawn, AFP, NBC News, The News, Express Tribune, Dawn, Los Angeles Times, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Guardian, Dawn, The News, The News, Dawn, Associated Press, Democracy Now, Washington Post
Ob331 – November 29 2013
♦ 2-3 reported killed
♦ 1-2 reported injured
Up to three people died in a drone attack on a house near Miranshah. The strike hit around midnight and the house was reportedly destroyed.
The identity of the dead was unclear. A security official told AFP they were thought to be of Central Asian origin. However a security official in Miranshah told NBC: “All the victims were members of the Urdu-speaking Punjabi Taliban. They weren’t fighting against Pakistani forces but would cross the Afghan border and attack foreign forces in Afghanistan.”
In the week after the strike, The News identified one of the dead as Abdur Rehman. The newspaper said three Punjabi Taliban were killed in the attack in all. Rehman was reportedly expelled in 2008 from the NED [Nadirshaw Eduljee Dinshaw] University of Engineering and Technology in Karachi.
The attack hit just over a week after the first strike outside the tribal region of Pakistan. It sparked outrage and protests – supporters of Pakistan Tehrik e Insaf (PTI), the leading party in KP provincial assembly, staged a sit-in and blocked Nato supply convoys passing through the province.
On November 27, PTI named a man they said was the CIA’s station chief in Islamabad, accusing him alongside CIA director John Brennan of ‘murder’ of those who died in the Hangu strike. PTI named the men in a First Information Report – the first step towards a criminal investigation in Pakistan. The attack came on the last night of General Ashfaq Kayani’s tenure as Pakistan’s military chief. He passed on the baton to Lieutenant General Raheel Sharif, Army Chief of Staff, at a ceremony in Islamabad.
Ob332 – December 25 2013
♦ 3-4 reported killed
♦ 1 reported injured
At least three people were killed in the first Christmas day drone strike recorded by the Bureau. The dead were allegedly Afghan militants, although they reportedly could not be identified. At least two missiles were reportedly fired on a house near Miranshah, the capital of North Waziristan Agency. The attack hit at around midnight. Local tribesmen reported drones remained flying over the area after the strike. It was the first attack in 26 days and hit later the same day the Afghan Taliban attacked the US embassy in Kabul. The militant group fired two rockets at the mission in a dawn attack. There were no reported casualties.
The Obama administration says it killed one civilian and 431-441 combatants in counterterrorism strikes last year – contrasting slightly with the Bureau’s estimate of four to six civilians and 358-501 combatants.
Obama embraced the US drone programme, overseeing more strikes in his first year than Bush carried out during his entire presidency. The use of drones aligned with Obama’s ambition to keep up the war against al Qaeda while extricating the US military from intractable ground wars, but the targeted killing programme has drawn much criticism.
Dataset: The US aerial campaign continues in Yemen in its fifteenth year.