Posts filed under ‘Pakistan’
UNMANNED AIRCRAFT: British Strike on ISIS/ISIL; Pakistan’s First In-House Drone Attack; Secret U.S. Drone Campaign [UPDATE]
Updates with new 3rd item item on secret drone campaign against Islamic State, reported by the Washington Post.
It’s been a busy couple of weeks for military unmanned aircraft around the world: Britain launched its first drone strike against the terrorist group known as the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) … Pakistan launched the first homegrown drone strike against terrorists within its borders … and a secret U.S. drone campaign in the war against the Islamic State was revealed by the Washington Post.
British Prime Minister David Cameron told parliament Monday (September 7) that he had approved an air strike against a vehicle carrying a British jihadist in Syria. Cameron said the dead man — identified as Reyaad Khan — was plotting attacks against Britain, Reuters reported.
The Hellfire missile strike was launched from an RAF General Atomics Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) remotely piloted from a hi-tech control hub at RAF Waddington, the British newspaper the Daily Mail reported.
Despite the absence of a parliamentary mandate to take military action in Syria, Cameron told MPs that, as an act of self-defence, Khan had been targeted and killed in a Royal Air Force (RAF) precision drone strike in the country. Cameron said that two people traveling with Khan, including another Briton, Ruhul Amin, were also killed. “There was a terrorist directing murder on our streets and no other means to stop him,” Cameron said. “We took this action because there was no alternative,” he added, calling the air strike “entirely lawful.”
But the August 21 drone strike has prompted criticism that the government disregarded the intent of a 2013 vote that rejected allowing air attacks against Syrian targets, the New York Times reported. Critics in and out of politics say the Cameron government is on shaky ground in approving the killing of Britons abroad without a full legal process.
But British defense minister Michael Fallon said Tuesday (September 8) Britain will not hesitate to carry out more deadly drone strikes against militants in Syria planning attacks on the United Kingdom, Reuters reported (via Yahoo).
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Also on Monday (September 7) Pakistan said it used its first-ever armed drone in an airstrike that killed three ‘‘high-profile’’ militants near the Afghan border, according to an army statement, the Associated Press reported. The missiles hit a compound in the Shawal valley of the Waziristan tribal region, the army statement said.
No other details have been made available about those killed or whether any civilians were among the victims. The area is not accessible for reporters and aid workers, the Voice of America reported.
Parts of the Waziristan region are still believed to be serving as hideouts for militants linked to the Pakistani Taliban and fugitive commanders of the Taliban insurgency in neighboring Afghanistan. The area has been the focus for nearly a decade of a U.S. drone campaign to eliminate extremist bases from the Pakistani border region, and to defuse the threat they pose to coalition and Afghan forces across the border, according to VOA.
The armed drone, called Burraq, was used for the first time since its development in November 2013. Director General of Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asim Bajwa announced the first ever use of the UAV on his Twitter page adding that a terrorist compound was hit and three militants were killed in the air strike carried out by “Burraq,” the Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported. However, the newspaper noted that the tweet could not be independently verified “as reporters have limited access to the restive agency.”
The Pakistan Army tested a Burraq armed with laser-guided Barq missile for the first time on March 14, Dawn said. Both th Burraq drone and Barq missile, have been indigenously developed, according to the army.
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The Washington Post reported last week (September 1) that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and U.S. Special Operations forces have launched a secret campaign to hunt terrorism suspects in Syria. The drone campaign is part of a targeted killing program that is run separately from the broader U.S. military offensive against the Islamic State, according to U.S. officials cited by the Post.
The CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) are flying drones over Syria in an effort responsible for several recent strikes against senior Islamic State operatives, the officials said. Among those killed was a British militant thought to be an architect of the effort by the terrorist group (also known as ISIS and ISIL) to use social media to incite attacks in the United States, the officials said.
According to the Post the clandestine program represents a significant escalation of the CIA’s involvement in the war in Syria, enlisting the agency’s Counterterrorism Center (CTC) against a militant group that many officials believe has eclipsed al Qaeda as a threat. Officials told the Post the program is aimed at terrorism suspects deemed “high-value targets.”
Spokesmen for the CIA and the U.S. Special Operations Command, which oversees JSOC, declined to comment. Other officials would discuss the program only on the condition of anonymity, the Post said.
Mullah Omar Dead?
The Afghan government made a surprising announcement Wednesday (July 29) that Mullah Muhammad Omar, the leader of the Afghan Taliban movement was dead — and had been for more than two years.
Officials said the one-eyed insurgent leader had died more than two years ago in a Pakistani hospital. He had not been seen in public since 2001, not long after the attacks of Sept. 11, carried out by a terrorist group to which he had given safe harbor. The New York Times has details here.
Analysts speculate that the Taliban leader’s death could spark defections from the Islamist insurgent group and might drive many to sign up with the hyper violent Islamist State gtoup, also known as ISIS and ISIL, according to CNN.
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India has executed the man convicted of financing a deadly string of bombings in Mumbai in 1993.
Yakub Memon was hanged at a prison in Nagpur in the western state of Maharashtra, the BBC reported.
The serial blasts killed 257 people, and were allegedly to avenge the killing of Muslims in riots a few months earlier.
There was tight security around the Nagpur prison today (July 30), and in parts of the state capital, Mumbai.
The March 1993 blasts targeted a dozen sites, including the Bombay Stock Exchange, the offices of national air carrier Air India and a luxury hotel.
Islamabad Gets Tough.
Ten days after a Taliban attack on an army-run school that left 148 people dead – most of them children – Pakistan’s government is giving the military a blank check for two years to do whatever it takes to finish the country’s protracted battle with Islamic terrorists.
According to a McClatchy Newspapers website, the government response was broadened from the Taliban Movement of Pakistan — which has waged a bloody insurgency since July 2007 — to all jihadist and sectarian militants on Pakistani soil. That decision echoes Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s December 17 vow, not to differentiate between so-called “good and bad Taliban,” McClatchy reported.
The military’s nationwide campaign, launched in June with a massive offensive in Pakistan’s northwest tribal areas, is being closely watched by the United States and other countries to see whether it includes Pakistan-based militant groups that have repeatedly attacked neighboring Afghanistan and India, according to McClatchy.
On December 17 – the day after the Peshawar school massacre – Prime Minister Sharif ordered an end a to six-year moratorium on capital punishment. Pakistan’s interior ministry has approved the execution of 400 people convicted of terrorism offenses prior to 2008. In all, there more than 3,000 convicted terrorists on death row — all of whom are to be hanged. Six people have already been handed, the BBC reported.
An additional 6,000 suspected terrorists and their supporters have been targeted for arrest in the nationwide crackdown and summary trial in military courts.
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Strikes on ISIL/ISIS
The U.S. military and its allies carried out 12 airstrikes against ISIL/ISIS militants in Iraq and Syria on December 27, Reuters reported.
Six strikes near the Syrian town of Kobani on the Turkish border destroyed Islamic State buildings, fighting positions and vehicles, according to the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve Public Affairs office. In Iraq, targets including buildings, vehicles and an Islamic State refinery were hit in six strikes near Al Asad, Mosul, Falluja, Al Qaim and Baiji, it said.
The strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve — which aims to eliminate the ISIL/ISIS terrorist group and the threat they pose to Iraq, the region and the wider international community.
Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Iraq include the United States, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. In Syria, coalition airstrike partners include the United States, Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, according to the Combined Join Task Force.
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Al Shabab Leader Captured
Authorities in Somalia say they have captured one of the most wanted commanders of the African Islamist terror group, al Shabab.
Zakariye Ismail Hersi was captured in a raid Saturday morning (December 26) in the town of El Wak near the border with Kenya, according to the Voice of America.
General Abbas Ibrahim Gurey, the commander of Somali government troops in the southern Gedo region, told VOA’s Somali service that authorities received a tip from members of the public that al-Shabab suspects were hiding in a house. Gurey said that Hersi was captured with his secretary and without a struggle.
In June 2012, the U.S. put a $3 million reward for the capture of Hersi, describing him as an associate of former al-Shabab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane. Godane was killed in a U.S. airstrike in September.
Hersi’s capture comes after militants with the group, which is linked to al Qaeda, attacked a large African Union base in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, last week (December 25). Three Ugandan soldiers and a civilian were killed, said CNN. Al-Shabaab has said that attack was revenge for the U.S. airstrike that killed Godane. The State Department had offered a $7 million reward for information on Godane’s location.
Counter Terrorism Strategy.
The Pentagon’s top intelligence adviser says terrorists in Syria, Yemen and the wild region along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border still pose the greatest threat to U.S. security.
While the number of groups “aspiring to the jihadi philosophy has expanded” and the number of attacks have grown they are mostly focused on internal or neighboring enemies in the Middle East and North Africa, says Michael Vickers. But “the most dangerous threats to the American homeland emanate from Syria, from Yemen and still from the tribal areas of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region,” Vickers, said during a panel discussion on counterterrorism Thursday (July 24) at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.
Vickers said the extremist movement that has swept out of war-torn Syria and seized a large slice of Iraq under the name Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) or Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is “in a competition for leadership of the global jihad with al Qaeda … and they’re a threat not to be discounted as well.”
Before he became the principal intelligence adviser to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and his successor, Chuck Hagel, Vickers served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations/Low Intensity & Interdependent Capabilities, where he oversaw strategic forces, conventional forces and special operations forces – as well as advising the secretary of defense on counter terrorism and irregular warfare.
From 1973 to 1986, Vickers served as an Army Special Forces non-commissioned officer, Green Beret officer and CIA operations officer. During the 1980s he was the principal strategist for the covert paramilitary operation that drove the Soviet army out of Afghanistan (“Charlie Wilson’s War”).
Another security concern for Vickers: the number of foreign fighters streaming in and out of Syria who have passports from Western nations. He said they number in the thousands “so it’s a serious problem.” He noted that the number of foreign fighters streaming into Syria-Iraq is much greater than the flow of foreign fighters during the height of the Iraq War.
“I think Syria is a disaster from a threat perspective” because there are thousands of foreign fighters who a very hard to track, said another panelist, Juan Zarate, a former Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Adviser for Combating Terrorism during the George W. Bush administration. He said Syria was “animating the movement” and “drawing adherents” from around the world. “Any time you give terrorist groups — those with global ambitions and potential reach — the breathing space to operate, to innovate, to strategize, to make connections, that’s a prescription for disaster. And I think that’s a real problem with Syria as it festers.”
Vickers also praised the armed Predator drone as the single most important asset for wearing down al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Yemen.
Second Nigerian Bombing.
Another bomb has gone off near Abuja, the capital of Nigeria.
The blast Thursday (May 1) occurred in Nyana near the transit center where a suicide bombing last month (April 14) killed 70 people and injured more than a hundred. Initial reports indicate 12 have been killed and many more have been injured in the latest attack, which is believed to have been a car bomb, according to the BBC.
Thursday’s bomb exploded near a checkpoint across the road from the bus station hit by the April 14 blast, according to the Associated Press, and just days before Abuja hosts scores of world leaders, philanthropists and business leaders arrive for the World Economic Forum on Africa.
The violent extremist group, Boko Haram, claimed responsibility for the April bombing – part of a five-year terror campaign to install Islamic sharia law in the predominantly Muslim parts of Africa’s most populous nation. There’s no word on any group claiming credit for the latest blast.
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Train Attack in India
A young woman was killed and several other people injured Thursday (May 1) when two blasts rocked a train in the south Indian city of Chennai.
The bombings come in the middle of India’s on-going general election, but officials can’t say if the two are related, the BBC reported. The incident happened minutes after the express train from Bangalore in southern India to the northeastern city of Guwahati arrived in the Chennai station.
Investigators said Chennai might not have been the target since the train was running an hour and a half late, according to the New York Times.
In April, another bomb ripped through a railway car parked at a station in southwestern Pakistan, killing at least 13 people. The blast in the town of Sibi also wounded 35 people, the Associated Press reported.
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Chinese President Xi Jinping is calling for “decisive actions” against what he termed “terrorist attacks” following a deadly blast Wednesday (April 30) in a railway station in far Western China.
Xi was winding up a four-day visit to the restive region of Xinjiang when the attack occurred. Local police said three people were killed and 79 were injured when attackers used knives and detonated explosives at a railway station in the city of Urumqi, according to the BBC.
Officials believe two of the dead were the attackers, the Associated Press reported. It was the third attack in seven months by what officials call Xinjiang extremists, the AP said.
Officials in Beijing have blamed such attacks on separatists from the mainly Muslim Uighur minority who number about nine million. The Uighurs have complained for years about political, religious and cultural repression by the Chinese government in Xinjiang.
In March, 150 people were injured and 29 were killed in an attack at a Kunming train station by several men armed with long knives. Chinese officials blamed Uighurs for that attack.
We don’t see photos of Special Operations Forces in combat very often but here’s one from the Defense Department.
It shows a U.S. Special Forces soldier (Green Beret) firing a Carl Gustav recoilless rifle system after receiving small-arms fire during a clearance operation at the village of Denasaro Kelay, in the Mizan district of Afghanistan’s Zabul province on March 8. The Afghans’ 3rd Special Operations Kandak (battalion), assisted by the Green Berets, conducted the clearance to disrupt insurgent movement in the area.
The soldier in the photo is assigned to Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan. To see more photos of how the operation went, click here.
Two Deadly Incidents
Two recent incidents have resulted in death at the hands of terrorists in Pakistan: A brave 15-year-old high school student and a senior police official in Pakistan’s struggle against the Taliban.
Tributes have been pouring in for the Pakistani teenager who was killed on Monday (January 6) when he tackled a suicide bomber targeting his school in northwest Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, the BBC reports.
Fifteen-year-old Aitzaz Hasan was with friends outside school when they spotted a man wearing a suicide vest. Despite the pleas of his classmates, he decided to confront and capture the bomber who then detonated his vest, his cousin told the BBC.
Aitzaz is being hailed as a hero in an outpouring of praise on social media. He has has been declared a “great hero” by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinvial government, according to The News International. Locals are calling for the boy’s sacrifice to be acknowledged on a federal level “as he not only demonstrated bravery but also intelligence and courage,” the Pakistani news website said.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, a senior Pakistani policeman was killed in a bombing as his convoy was travelling through Karachi. He was killed along with at least two other officers, The Independent reported.
A faction of the Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing, following up on repeated vows through the years to have him killed, the New York Times reported.
The police official, Muhammad Aslam Khan — widely known as Chaudhry Aslam — had survived at least nine previous assassination attempts. His hard-charging public crusades against Karachi’s entrenched criminal enterprises and sectarian violence earned him many admirers, but also many enemies, officials said, according to the Times.