January 31, 2008

Predator: 12 13, Al Qaeda: 0

I wrote earlier this week about militants killed in a missile strike in Pakistan. At the time, I speculated that they were going after "high-value targets" (HVTs), and speculated that the attack may have been a U.S. Predator drone strike like the one that targeted al Qaeda's Number 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri in 2006.

According to Michelle Malkin, It looks like they may have targeting someone else, as noted in this Reuters article:

A leading al Qaeda member in Afghanistan, Abu Laith al-Libi, has been killed, a Web site often used by the group and other Islamists said on Thursday.

A banner on the site said Libi had fallen as a martyr, without giving further details.

It was not immediately clear if Libi's death was linked to a suspected U.S. missile strike that killed up to 13 foreign militants in Pakistan's North Waziristan region this week.

The attack had targeted second or third tier al Qaeda leaders, according to residents in the tribal area.

Tribesmen in the area had said a deputy of Libi, a senior al Qaeda leader, had been staying there and was among the dead, according to an intelligence official.

It remains to be seen if any other high-ranking al Qaeda figures were among the 12 killed, and whether or not it was, in fact, a U.S. drone operating well inside Pakistan. An earlier AP report seems to suggest that possibility:

A resident said an armed drone may have carried out the strike.

"We could see a small, white plane flying over the village for the past several days," villager Dildar Khan said.

An Interior Ministry spokesman said he had no information about any missile strike.

The government often uses airstrikes to attack militants in areas that its ground forces and artillery cannot reach, but some of the aerial attacks near the border in recent years are believed to have been launched by missile-armed U.S. drones flying from Afghanistan.

Authorities in both the U.S. and Afghanistan have denied knowledge of such operations.

Sure they do. It doesn't make the terrorists any less dead.

More from Reuters, which also leans towards a predator strike in Pakistan:

An intelligence official, however, told Reuters on Thursday that based on information gleaned from tribal contacts there were seven Arabs and six Central Asians killed.

He said the attack was believed to have been carried out by a pilotless U.S. Predator aircraft flown across the nearby border with Afghanistan.

"The missile appeared to have been fired by a drone," the intelligence official said.

The Pakistani authorities have not confirmed the attack, and the Pentagon has denied taking any action, but the Defense Department does not speak for the Central Intelligence Agency, which operates Predators that the tribesmen say carried out the attack late on Monday.

Villagers saw two drones flying over the area before the attack. They didn't see the missile being fired but one heard a plane's engine before the explosion.

The same report states that in addition to Abu Laith al Libi, Obaidah al Masri may have been another target of the attack. al Masri was reportedly the leader of the 2006 UK-based plot to bomb transatlantic airliners.

Posted by Confederate Yankee at January 31, 2008 02:02 PM