Posted: 07 Jun 2013 12:14 PM PDT
The US launched a drone strike in Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan today. Six "militants," including an unnamed "high value target," are said to have been killed in the latest attack in an area known to serve as a launchpad for operations against US forces in Afghanistan.
The remotely piloted Predators or the more advanced Reapers fired two missiles at a compound in the village of Mangroati in the Shawal area of the North Waziristan, according to Dawn. Six militants, including a "high value target," are reported to have been killed. The name of the senior operative thought to have been killed was not disclosed.
Today's strike is the first in Pakistan since the US killed Waliur Rehman, the deputy emir of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, and the group's leader in South Waziristan. It is also the first strike in Pakistan since Nawaz Sharif was sworn in as the country's prime minister. Sharif has repeatedly called for an end to drone strikes and is seeking to negotiate with the Taliban.
The last strike in the Shawal Valley took place on Dec. 28, 2012; five "militants" are reported to have died in the attack.
The Shawal Valley is a known haven for al Qaeda and other terror groups operating in the region. Last year, 10 of the 46 drone strikes in Pakistan, or 22%, hit targets in the Shawal Valley. Targeting in the area was heavy during the summer of 2012; at one point in time, seven of 10 strikes took place there.
Al Qaeda, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, and Taliban fighters under the command of Hafiz Gul Bahadar, the leader of the Taliban in North Waziristan, are all known to operate in the Shawal Valley, which is near the Afghan border. The area is used to launch attacks across the border in Afghanistan. Additionally, Central Asia terror groups are known to operate in the area. On July 1, 2012, a US drone strike killed several members of the Turkistan Islamic Party, an al Qaeda-affiliated group that operates in Pakistan, China, and Central Asia.
Bahadar administers the Shawal Valley. In 2009, after the Pakistani military launched an offensive in the Mehsud areas of South Waziristan, Bahadar sheltered the families of Hakeemullah Mehsud, the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, and Waliur Rehman [see LWJ report, Taliban escape South Waziristan operation].
Despite the known presence of al Qaeda and other foreign groups in North Waziristan, and requests by the US that action be taken against these groups, the Pakistani military has indicated that it has no plans to take on Hafiz Gul Bahadar or the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network. Bahadar and the Haqqanis are considered "good Taliban" by the Pakistani military establishment as they do not carry out attacks inside Pakistan. In June 2012, Bahadar banned polio vaccinations in North Waziristan, in protest against US drone strikes.
The US has launched 15 drone strikes in Pakistan so far this year, according to data compiled by The Long War Journal. The number of strikes in Pakistan has decreased since a peak in 2010, when 117 such attacks were recorded. In 2011, 64 strikes were launched in Pakistan, and in 2012 there were 46 strikes.
The US has targeted al Qaeda's top leaders and its external operations network, as well as the assortment of Taliban and Pakistani jihadist groups operating in the region. The strikes have been confined mostly to North and South Waziristan. Of the 340 strikes recorded since 2004, 323, or 95%, have taken place in the two tribal agencies.
Posted: 07 Jun 2013 10:28 AM PDT
The Syrian Observator for Human Rights, which tracks Syria's civil war, today published the video above that shows members of the Al Nusrah Front for the People of the Levant, al Qaeda's affilate in Syria, raising the black flag of jihad in an Aleppo neighborhood.From the SOHR's Facebook page:
Aleppo province: Islamist activists in the Tariq al-Bab neighbourhood of Aleppo have taken down the Syrian revolution flags and threw them to the ground, putting in their place the flag of Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham. Local civil activists have voiced much anger as a result.
The raising of al Qaeda's flag in Aleppo is not surpising. By early 2013, the Al Nusrah Front had imposed sharia, or Islamic law, in Aleppo. The Nusrah Front is also in control of vast areas of eastern Syria, including Raqqah, a provincial capital, and has imposed sharia there as well.
The video of the Al Nusrah Front raising its flag appears just two days after al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri again implored Muslims to wage jihad in Syria. From Zawahiri's speech, which was released on jihadist forums and translated by the SITE Intelligence Group:
O lions of Islam in the Levant of garrison and jihad: There is hope to bring back Palestine, which was usurped from us 65 years ago, with your blessed jihad. So, O Ummah of Islam and its free and honorable people, if you want the Caliphate to return, then deploy to the Levant. If you want to establish Shariah-based governance, then deploy to the Levant. If you to liberate Palestine, then deploy to the Levant. If you want to extirpate the corrupt rulers, then deploy to the Levant. If you want to resist America, then deploy to the Levant. And if you want to stand against the Iranian Safavid expansion, then deploy to the Levant. Deploy with yourselves, monies, experiences and knowledge.
Make no mistake: Syria has become a prime front for al Qaeda. The Al Nusrah Front was estimated by the US government to have had more than 10,000 fighters at the end of last year; this number doesn't include the more than 3,000 Free Syrian Army fighters who have defected to the Al Nusrah Front as of the beginning of May. And it doesn't include the Muhajireen Army, which is led by a Chechen commander and is closely allied to the Al Nusrah Front.
Posted: 06 Jun 2013 09:12 PM PDT
The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced on June 6 that through the first five months of 2013, the number of attempts by Palestinian terrorists to abduct Israeli soldiers was equal to the entire total in 2012. According to the IDF, thus far this year 27 abduction attempts have been thwarted.
The announcement came a day after three female Israeli soldiers alleged that Palestinian men had attempted to abduct them.According to Haaretz, the increase in abduction attempts over the past few months "has prompted the army to strictly enforce safety measures and remind soldiers of directives intended to prevent such incidents."
While the IDF did not say how many plots were tied to specific Palestinian terror groups, Hamas is believed to be behind the majority of them. Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which had its own kidnapping plots thwarted this year, recently released a video that depicted an Israeli soldier dreaming about being abducted. The video, uploaded to one of Islamic Jihad's websites, concluded with a warning in Hebrew that the group was ready to turn the soldier's nightmare into a reality.
Although the IDF noted an increase in abduction attempts thus far in 2013, the numbers provided appear to be lower than those of the Shin Bet, which were reported in April. On April 12, Israeli media reported that through the first four months of 2013, the Shin Bet had tallied 33 thwarted kidnapping attempts.
The same reports said the Shin Bet counted 24 thwarted abduction attempts in 2012, which is three lower than the IDF's total released on June 6. According to the Shin Bet's 2012 annual report, one-third of the approximately 100 "significant attacks" it thwarted from Gaza, the West Bank, and within Israel in 2012 were kidnapping attempts.
The reason for the discrepancy between the IDF's data and that of the Shin Bet is not immediately clear. Israeli agencies are known to maintain different criteria for some security data, however. For example, with regard to rockets and mortars fired from the Gaza Strip, some agencies include all rockets and mortars fired toward Israel, including those that land in Gaza, while others count only those that land within Israeli territory.
In this instance, the IDF's data may be focused solely on attempts to abduct soldiers, while the Shin Bet may be including attempts to abduct soldiers or civilians.
Nonetheless, as one IDF officer recently conceded, while Israeli authorities "have been able to thwart the kidnapping attempts ... the scope is extraordinary, and it is clear we will not be able to foil these attempts forever."
Posted: 07 Jun 2013 05:10 AM PDT
The Taliban claimed credit for a suicide attack today at a base in the southern Afghan province of Helmand that killed seven Georgian soldiers. The suicide attack is the sixth of its kind by the Taliban and their allies in less than two weeks.
Today's suicide attack took place inside a Forward Operating Base manned by Georgian troops in the district of Now Zad in northern Helmand. Now Zad was largely under Taliban control before US Marines launched an offensive in 2010 to drive the group from the populated areas of the district.
Irakly Dzneladze, the chief of Georgia's military staff, stated that "[i]t was a terrorist attack on our base .... Six of our soldiers died, nine were wounded,"according to Reuters.
The International Security Assistance Force later noted that seven Georgian soldiers were killed "when enemies of Afghanistan attacked their position in southern Afghanistan with a vehicle borne improvised explosive device," or suicide car bomb.
The Taliban claimed the attack in a statement released on Voice of Jihad, their propaganda website. The attack "killed 20 foreign invaders and wounded dozens others," the Taliban claimed.
The suicide bomber was identified as "Abdul Ghafar from Kandahar province." According to the Taliban, Ghafar "detonated his truck laden with heavy-duty explosives inside a large ISAF base, located on the road in Angrak Karez area, causing the above mentioned casualties as well as destroying several tanks and vehicles parked inside."
The Taliban routinely exaggerate the effects of their operations and boost the counts of ISAF and Afghan personnel killed.
The Taliban have said they would step up attacks against "foreign invaders," or Coalition personnel operating under the command of the International Security Assistance Force as well as workers from non-governmental organizations operating in Afghanistan, and stressed that suicide and insider attacks would be used. [See LWJ report, Taliban promise suicide assaults, 'insider attacks' in this year's spring offensive.]
Today's suicide attack in Helmand is the sixth high-profile suicide bombing in Afghanistan by the Taliban and their allies in the past 10 days. The last major suicide attack, which took place on June 3, killed 10 Afghan students, two US soldiers, and an Afghan Local Policeman after US and Afghan soldiers were targeted outside a school in Paktia.
On May 29, the al Qaeda-affiliated Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the Taliban launched a joint suicide assault on the governor's compound in Panjshir. That same day, a suicide assault team attacked a Red Cross office in Jalalabad. The Talibanhave denied involvement in the Jalalabad assault.
On May 24, a Taliban suicide assault team targeted a UN-linked NGO compound in Kabul. And on May 23, a suicide bomberkilled seven people in an attack that targeted a local militia commander in Ghazni.