Pakistan Security Brief
Pakistan Security Brief – March 18, 2010
Top al-Qaeda leader killed in North Waziristan drone strike; CIA director says attacks in Pakistan tribal area have severely disrupted al-Qaeda; Taliban group in North Waziristan promises to adhere to peace accord; six Taliban killed, five arrested in clash with local lashkar in Kurram; gun battle with militants near Darra Adam Khel, civilians killed by security forces; Paksitani foreign minister calls on US to “do more”; US Muslims plead not guilty to terror charges; two Pakistani generals promoted; Taliban commanders killed in Swat; several violent incidents in Quetta.
According to a US counterterrorism official, a senior al-Qaeda commander, Hussein al-Yemeni, is believed to have been killed in a US drone strike in Miramshah, North Waziristan on March 8. Yemeni was an explosives expert who was well connected with al-Qaeda and Taliban elements throughout Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the Arabian Peninsula. He is also believed to have had a hand in planning the December 30, 2009 suicide bombing against the CIA in Khost, Afghanistan, although his precise role in the attack is still unclear.
CIA director Leon Panetta has stated that his agency’s operations in the tribal areas of Pakistan, in conjunction with increased cooperation with the Pakistani government, have “seriously disrupted” al-Qaeda’s capacity for operations. Mr. Panetta cited an intercepted message of an al-Qaeda lieutenant pleading for Osama bin-Laden to come to the group’s rescue and provide active leadership. He also said the pressure on al Qaeda is growing on the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan and could be stepped up further. Mr. Panetta also commented that the Pakistanis were “talking about the possibility of going into North Waziristan”.
The Taliban group led by Hafiz Gul Bahadur has distributed leaflets stating that it would honor their current peace accord with the government. The leaflet denied they approved the recent distribution of another leaflet which harshly accused the government of working with the US. Bahadur’s group has also distanced itself from conducting bomb attacks on security officials in North Waziristan, a charge previously leveled against them by the military.
An anti-Taliban lashkar clashed with militants in the Dagar area of Kurram Agency on Wednesday, killing at least six militants and arresting five others. This is the latest clash between the anti-Taliban lashkar and the Mullah Toofan faction of the TTP since Tuesday’s incident in which 10 Taliban and three tribesmen were killed.
Six militants were killed and five security personnel were wounded on Wednesday night after more than 50 heavily armed militants attacked a checkpoint at Sapna Thana Camp between Darra Adam Khel and Peshawar city. After the gun battle, a curfew was imposed and search operations began along the main road through Darra Adam Khel. Today, at least two civilians were killed when security forces fired on two busses traveling along the road that were presumably unaware of the curfew.
Less than a week before strategic talks between the US and Pakistan are due to be held in Washington, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has said that the US needs to do more for Pakistan and stressed the need for a stronger long term relationship. Qureshi put forward several proposals for more regular meetings between Pakistani and US officials and also asked for increased financial support from the US to deal with the country’s problems of development and poverty.
US terror suspects on trial
Five Muslim men from the Washington, DC area have pleaded not guilty in a Punjab court to the charges that they had travelled to the country to engage in militant activity. Their lawyer claims the men were in the country to provide financial and medical aid to Muslims in Afghanistan. The next hearing is set for March 31 when the prosecution will present evidence and witnesses to the court.
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has approved the promotions of Major General Syed Muhammad Owais and Major General Asif Yasin Malik to the rank of Lieutenant General. The promotions were made upon the recommendation of Army Chief of Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
Two senior commanders of the Swat Taliban have been reported to be among the five militants killed in a joint operation by the Pakistani army and local police. Bakht Farzand and Mian Gul were killed in a gun battle that erupted after security forces surrounded their house in Pattan town. The two commanders were believed to be close associates of Mullah Fazlullah and carried a reward on their head of 10 million rupees each.
On Wednesday, four Frontier Corps personnel were wounded in Quetta when a group of unknown attackers hurled a hand grenade and opened fired on their vehicle. Security forces returned fire, killing one of the attackers while the other assailants managed to flee. Also in Quetta on Wednesday, a retired police superintendent and two construction workers were killed by gunmen riding motorbikes in separate shooting incidents in the Brewery road area of the city. Police in Quetta also reported that one man was killed while preparing a bomb. Authorities claim that a banner of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi was later discovered inside his home.