|Up-to-the-minute perspectives on defence, security and peace
issues from and for policy makers and opinion leaders.
Report by Elayne Jude, UK Defence Forum Research Associate
April saw a surge in strikes in Yemen and a lull in Waziristan until the end of the month. This reflected NATO negotiations with Pakistan to re-open ground supply lines to Afghanistan.
In May, a letter was released from Emir Osama bin Laden instructing some of al Qaeda's leaders to relocate to eastern Afghanistan to avoid the US drone campaign in North and South Waziristan. Bin Laden's instructions were given to his deputy, Atiyah Abd al Rahman, in a letter dated Oct. 21, 2010. The document is one of thousands seized during the raid in Abbottabad; only 17 have been released to the public.
June saw the first drone attack in Aden, South Yemen.
April 8 - Yemen. Eight AQAP fighters, including three foreign "Arabs," killed in the southern Yemeni province of Shabwa. Missiles struck a vehicle transporting five Yemeni and three foreign Arabs from unspecified countries from Shabwa to Marib province. No senior AQAP leaders have been reported killed in the strike. It is reported that the strike aircraft were circling the "Al Qaeda strongholds" of Rawdah, Huta, and Azzan.
Today's strike in Shabwa is the first by the US this month. The US launched at least six strikes against AQAP in Yemen in March, most recently on March 30. During the period of March 9-13, the US hit AQAP targets two times each in the cities of Ja'ar in Abyan province and Al Baydah in Baydah province. The March 9 strike in Ja'ar killed Abdulwahhab al Homaiqani, an AQAP commander in the city, and 16 of his fighters. No senior AQAP leaders were reported to have been killed in the other strikes.
The pace of the US airstrikes has increased as AQAP and its political front, Ansar al Sharia, have taken control of vast areas of southern Yemen. AQAP controls the cities of Zinjibar, Al Koud, Ja'ar, and Shaqra in Abyan province, and also controls Azzan in Shabwa province. AQAP seized control of Rada'a in Baydah in January, but later withdrew after negotiating a peace agreement with the local government.
April 14 - Yemen. 21 AQAP fighters were killed in two separate strikes in southern Yemen over the past several days. One of the strikes took place in an area where Yemeni troops have been battling the group for nearly a week. Seven AQAP fighters as they travelled in a vehicle in the province of Baydah. Yemeni officials claimed the AQAP fighters were traveling to the neighbouring province of Abyan, where Yemeni troops have been fighting AQAP in the city of Lawdar for the past week.
In a separate strike on April 11, US drones killed 14 AQAP fighters in an attack on a convoy in Lawdar. "Foreign nationals," or AQAP fighters from outside of Yemen, were reported killed in the strike.
Yemeni officials did not give the nationalities of those killed in today's strike, but Saudis, Somalis, and Pakistanis were reported to have been among those killed during fighting in Lawdar on April 11. Two "senior members" of AQAP, Dardish Ahmed Mohammed Taher and Imad al Manshaby, who was described as a "field leader," were among the dead.
April 16 - Yemen. Five al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula fighters in a strike today in an area that is currently under the terror group's control.
An AQAP vehicle was targeted as it was travelling near the town of Karma in the Azzan district in Shabwa province. Five AQAP fighters, but no senior leaders, are said to have been killed.
(On 24 April, the Madad News Agency, a propaganda arm of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, announced the death of an Egyptian known as Abu Musab al Masri. The statement was published on Madad's Facebook page and has been translated by the SITE Intelligence Group.
According to Madad, al Masri died "a week ago in an American bombing over one of the sites of the mujahideen of Ansar al-Shariah between the cities of Azzan and al-Hotah in Shabwa province.")
Azzan is one of several cities under AQAP control. The city was one of the first to fall to AQAP in early June 2011, after the terror group seized control of Zinjibar in neighboring Abyan province in late May 2011.
The family of slain AQAP ideologue and operational commander Anwar al Awlaki is from Azzan. Anwar's son, Abdul Rahman al Awlaki, was killed in October 2011 in Azzan. One month earlier, Anwar al Awlaki had been killed in a drone strike in Al Jawf province.
The US has carried out four drone strikes in Azzan.
April 24 - Yemen. A senior al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula leader who trained at a camp in Afghanistan more than a decade ago was killed in southern Yemen. The airstrike is one of two thought to have been carried out over the past several days.
Mohammed Saeed al Umda (also known as Ghareeb al Taizi) is said to be among three AQAP members killed in an April 22 drone strike on a convoy in the Al Samadah area, near the border of Marib and Al Jawf provinces. US officials would neither confirm or deny the strike, but one intelligence official said that al Umda "has been in our crosshairs."AQAP and its political front, Ansar al Sharia, have not released a martyrdom statement announcing his death.
A Yemeni official said that al Umda provided "logistical and financial support" and "commanded a number of AQAP military operations in Yemen." Al Umda has also been featured prominently in AQAP's propaganda.
Al Umda attended the Al Farouq military training camp in Afghanistan. Al Farouq was one of al Qaeda's primary training facilities pre-9/11. Foreign recruits were shuttled to the camp, where they were given training on light arms and other basic instruction. Those selected for operations were sent to other specialized training camps. Other recruits were selected to fight alongside the Taliban in al Qaeda's Arab 055 Brigade.
Al Umda was involved in the October 2002 suicide attack on the French oil tanker Limburg. He was convicted by a Yemeni court and imprisoned in 2005. In February 2006, he was among 23 al Qaeda operatives to escape from a prison in Sana'a. The Yemeni official said that al Umda is listed as the fourth-most-wanted man in Yemen.
April 29 - North Waziristan. Four dead in first drone strike in Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal agency in nearly a month. The strike in North Waziristan targeted an abandoned school known to be used by foreign fighters.
A pair of missiles were fired at the abandoned high school for girls located in the bazaar in Miramshah in North Waziristan. Four "militants" were said to have been killed in the strike.
"We don't know about their identity and nationality but those living in the girls' school were mostly Arabs," an official said, according to SAMAA. Another Pakistani official said the school was occupied by Uzbek and Tajik militants, which is likely a reference to the al Qaeda-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. The IMU is closely allied with the Haqqani Network and is known to conduct operations with the group in eastern Afghanistan. During a raid in the eastern Afghan province of Wardak on April 25, Coalition special operations forces attempted to capture a senior Haqqani Network operative linked to the IMU's leadership cadre in Pakistan.
A Pakistani security official said today that intelligence officials intercepted communications between the militants that included a request for "four coffins for the slain men." More than two dozen fighters were believed to be occupying the school before it was struck.
May 4 - North Waziristan. Four missiles were fired at a compound in the village of Darr-e-Nishtar in the Shawal Valley. Ten "militants' were killed and one more was wounded in the strike, according to one report. Another report stated that eight missiles were fired at the compound and eight militants were killed. No senior Taliban or al Qaeda leaders have been reported killed.
Abu Hamza al Omani, also known as Imran bin Abdullah bin Khamis al Balochi, was among several foreign fighters who identified later in the month in a statement released on jihadist Internet forums. The location was given as 'Khorasan'.
The term "Khorasan" refers to a region that encompasses large areas of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Iran. Jihadists consider the Khorasan to be the area where they will inflict the first defeat against their enemies in the Muslim version of Armageddon. The final battle is to take place in the Levant - Israel, Syria, and Lebanon.
Mentions of the Khorasan have increased in al Qaeda's propaganda over the past several years. After al Qaeda's defeat in Iraq, the group began shifting its rhetoric from promoting Iraq as the central front in its jihad, to the Khorasan.
The compound was a known training centre. It is unclear who ran it. 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 border with Afghanistan.
May 6 - Yemen. A senior AQAP leader, wanted for his involvement in the USS Cole attack in 2000 and a failed airplane bombing over Detroit in 2009, and who currently leads a terrorist cell in Yemen, was killed inYemen today. The Yemeni Embassy in Washington, D.C. issued a statement saying that Fahd al Quso was killed in an airstrike in Rafth, in Shabwa province. "Today, an airstrike killed Fahd al Quso (Alias: Abu Huthayfa) in Rafth, Shabwa," said the statement by the Yemeni Embassy.
AQAP also announced Quso's death, in a statement released by the Madad news Agency.
"Qaedat al-Jihad in the Arabian Peninsula confirmed that the mujahid sheikh, the memoriser and reader of the Qur'an, Fahd al-Quso al-Awlaki, fell today's afternoon as a martyr - Allah permitting - after an American bombing in Wadi Rafadh in Shabwa province of southern Yemen," the statement said, according to a translation by the SITE Intelligence Group. The statement also said that one other AQAP fighter was killed in the airstrike.
May 10 - Yemen. Eight AQAP fighters died in an airstrike today in the city of Jaar, in Abyan province.
The early morning strike targeted a convoy transporting senior leaders of Ansar al Sharia, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's political front. No senior leaders have been identified as being killed.
In addition an airstrike levelled a home that housed five "militants." Among those reported killed was "a senior member of the terror network in charge of armament." It is unclear if the strike was carried out by US or Yemeni aircraft. Yemeni warplanes are said to have been conducting strikes in Jaar as well.
May 12 - Yemen. 11 AQAP fighters, including an Egyptian, were killed incentral Yemen today. The US has launched three airstrikes in Yemen in three days.
An unnamed Egyptian fighter was among six AQAP members killed in the first strike in an area of Marib province close to Shabwa. Five more AQAP fighters were killed in a car travelling in Marib. No senior leaders have been reported dead.
Last month, Abu Musab al Masri, an Egyptian jihadist who fought alongside AQAP, was killed along with several other foreign fighters in a strike in the Karma area, near Azzan, in Shabwa province. An Egyptian known as Abu Ayman was targeted in a strike in January 2010, but survived. Ibrahim al Bana, AQAP's media emir, was targeted in the October 2011 strike that killed Abdulrahman al Awlaki; Bana survived the strike.
May 15 - Yemen. Seven AQAP fighters and eight civilians killed in southern Yemen.
One strike targeted "a militant hideout" in Jaar, a city in Abyan province that is currently under al Qaeda control, The eight civilians were killed after they attempted to recover the bodies of AQAP fighters, apparently after a second salvo of missiles into the hideout.
Another targeted a home in Jaar that was thought to be used as an AQAP safe house. Three AQAP leaders are said to have been killed in that strike.
May 17 - Yemen. Two AQAP fighters killed in eastern Yemen, in the town of Shibam in Hadramout province. Missiles were fired at a vehicle as it was travelling in the eastern city. The identities of those killed have not been disclosed.
The Yemeni military has launched an offensive against AQAP in Zinjibar, the provincial capital of Abyan, as well as in Jaar and Lawdar, two other cities in the southern province. More than 20,000 Yemeni troops, backed by US CIA and military advisers and air and naval forces, are involved in the offensive.
AQAP is in control of Zinjibar and Jaar, and had a strong presence outside of Lawdar, where fighting has been heavy. Yemeni troops are also said to have entered Zinjibar. More than 150 Yemenis are reported to have been killed over the past several days.
May 19 - Yemen. Two al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula operatives killed in central Yemen yesterday, as fighting for control of major towns and cities in the south heats up.
A convoy was hit in the central province of Baydah yesterday afternoon, killing a Yemeni and a Somali fighter. The identities of those killed have not been disclosed, and AQAP has not released a statement confirming or denying the deaths.
Somali fighters from Shabaab are reported to have entered Yemen to support AQAP and its political front, Ansar al Sharia, as it attempts to consolidate control in the south and fight the military. On April 11, Yemeni officials claimed that Somalis, Saudis, and Pakistanis were among those killed during fighting in Lawdar in Abyan province. On April 21, the military claimed that 10 Saudi and three Somali fighters were killed while fighting in Abyan.
May 23 - North Waziristan. The first strike inside Pakistan in more than two weeks killed four "militants" today in an area of Pakistan that has been under Taliban control for eight years.
A pair of missiles were fired at a compound in Tabai, outside of Miramshah, a stronghold of the Haqqani Network. Pakistani intelligence officials stated four "militants" were killed. The compound was "suspected of being a militants' hideout."
The exact target of the strike has not been disclosed. No senior Taliban or al Qaeda operatives have been reported killed in the strike.
Miramshah serves as the headquarters of the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network, one of four major Taliban groups that joined the Shura-e-Murakeba, an alliance brokered by al Qaeda late last year.
Today's strike took place one day after the completion of a NATO conference on Afghanistan. The US had hoped the Pakistani government would reopen NATO's supply lines,which have run through Pakistan in the past, but have been shut down for six months. The Pakistani government has not made a decision on reopening the supply lines. Pakistan's parliament has demanded that the US end the drone strikes in the tribal areas as a condition for the reopening.
May 24 - North Waziristan. Pakistani intelligence officials said that 10 "militants" were killed in a strike on a compound in the Mir Ali area of North Waziristan in the middle of the night. No senior al Qaeda, Taliban, or members of allied terrorist groups operating in the area have been reported killed in the strike. Mir Ali is known to host a variety of foreign and domestic Pakistani terror groups.
The Mir Ali 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. Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Bahadar and the Haqqani Network also operate in the Mir Ali area. Mir Ali is a known hub for al Qaeda's military and external operations councils.
Since Sept. 8, 2010, several Germans and Britons have been reported killed in Predator strikes in the Mir Ali area. The Europeans were members of the Islamic Jihad Group, an al Qaeda affiliate based in the vicinity of Mir Ali. The IJG members are believed to have been involved in an al Qaeda plot that targeted several major European cities and was modelled after the terror assault on the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008. The plot was orchestrated by Ilyas Kashmiri, the al Qaeda leader who was killed in a strike in June 2011.
May 26 - North Waziristan. Four 'militants' killed at a compound near Miramshah.
No senior al Qaeda or Taliban officials have been reported killed in the strike. The Taliban cordoned off the scene of the strike to conduct recovery operations, which indicates that a high-value target may have been killed.
Miramshah serves as the headquarters of the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network, a powerful Taliban subgroup that operates in Afghanistan and Pakistan, supported by Pakistan's military and the ISI.
May 28 - North Waziristan. Eight 'militants' killed in two airstrikes. The US again targeted terrorists operating in Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan, killing eight "militants" in two airstrikes.
In the first strike, four missiles were fired at a compound in the village of Hassokhel, near Miramshah. The strike aircraft then circled back and fired four more missiles at the compound. Hassokhel "was known for harbouring Uzbek, Arab and other foreign militants." At least five militants were killed. In the second strike, three more "militants" were killed when a pair of missiles were fired at a vehicle in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan. No senior leaders from al Qaeda, the Taliban, or other allied terror groups have been reported killed in either strike.
A US intelligence official involved in the drone program in the country said that the strikes would continue now that Pakistan has refused to reopen NATO's supply lines for the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
"There certainly hasn't been a shortage of targets in Pakistan's tribal areas," the official said. "Unfortunately the politics of getting the GLOC into Afghanistan has trumped the targeting of bad guys in Pakistan's tribal areas," he said, referring to the Ground Lines of Communication.
The drone program was scaled back dramatically from the end of March to the beginning of the fourth week in May. Between March 30 and May 22, the US conducted only three drones strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas as US officials attempted to renegotiate the reopening of NATO's supply lines.
May 28 - Yemen. Five dead in Baydah. The US targeted two local leaders of AQAP in the central province of Baydah today. The AQAP leaders survived the strike, but five fighters are reported to have been killed.
Today's drone strike, the ninth by the US in Yemen this month, targeted Kaid al Dhahab, AQAP's emir in the province of Baydah, and his brother Nabil, who is also a senior leader in the group.
Strikes targeted Kaid and Nabil as they were traveling in a convoy in Rada'a, a city in Baydah that was under AQAP control earlier this year. The drones killed five AQAP fighters and wounded four more. US intelligence officials identified Kaid as the target.
Kaid took control of AQAP in Baydah after his brother, Tariq, was killed in February by another brother, Hazam, a senior tribal leader in the town who was concerned that Tariq's affiliation with AQAP would incur the wrath of the Yemeni government. Before he was killed, Tariq had seized control of Baydah, raised al Qaeda's banner, sworn allegiance to Ayman al Zawahiri, and warned that "the Islamic Caliphate is coming."
June 2 - South Waziristan. A commander loyal to 'good' Taliban leader Mullah Nazir died in a drone strike in South Waziristan.
Missiles were fired at a vehicle and a motorcycle in a village near Wana. One report said the strike took place in the village of Doog and killed two Taliban fighters, while while another said strike occurred in Khawashi Khel and killed four fighters.
Rahmanullah, "a key commander of the Mullah Nazir group and a brother of commander Malang of the same group," was killed in the strike. Nazir administers the Wana area and supports and shelters al Qaeda leaders and operatives.
Today's strike is the first in South Waziristan since mid-March. The last eight strikes have taken place in Taliban-controlled North Waziristan.
June 3 - South Waziristan. Ten 'militants' killed. A group of local Taliban fighters and "foreigners" who were gathering to mourn the death of a commander who was killed yesterday were themselves killed. The strike is the seventh in the past two weeks.
Four missiles were fired at a group of Taliban fighters loyal to Mullah Nazir who gathered in the village of Mana Raghzai in South Waziristan.
June 4 - North Waziristan. 15 'militants' killed in a compound in the town of Mir Ali. The target of the strike and the identity of those killed is not known. Pakistani officials said that several "foreigners" were among those killed, but the report was not confirmed. The term 'foreigners' is used by Pakistani officials to describe Arab members of al Qaeda, or members of other regional jihadist groups based in Pakistan. "Uzbek, Tajik, and Turkmen militants fighting for the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan" were said to occupy the compound.
Abu Yahya al Libi is rumored to have been killed in today's strike, however his death has not been confirmed. US intelligence officials confirmed that al Libi was indeed the target of the Mir Ali strike.
The US carried out two other strikes this weekend; both took place near Wana in South Waziristan. A Taliban commander loyal to Mullah Nazir, who has said he is a member of al Qaeda and is on good terms with the Pakistani government, was killed in the first of the two strikes.
June 13 - Yemen. Missiles fired at a compound and a vehicle in the town of Azzan in Shabwa province killed nine AQAP fighters. The exact target of the strike is unclear. No senior AQAP leaders or operatives are reported killed .
Today's strike took place one day after the Yemeni Army liberated Zinjibar, the provincial capital of Abyan province, and Jaar. The two cities have been under AQAP control for more than a year. AQAP fighters are reportedly regrouping in Azzan in Shabwa province, and the Yemeni military is pursuing the AQAP force.
June 13 - North Waziristan. Four 'militants' killed. Today's strike targeted a vehicle in the village of Isha near Miramshah, the main town in North Waziristan. The drones fired two missiles at the vehicle, killing four. The target of the strike has not been disclosed, and at this time no senior al Qaeda or Taliban leaders are reported to have been killed.
Miramshah serves as the headquarters of the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network. The town serves as one of the "ground zeros" of terror groups based in North Waziristan. Other main centres of terror activity in North Waziristan include Datta Khel, Mir Ali, and the Shawal Valley.
June 14 - North Waziristan. Three killed in Miramshah bazaar. Today's strike, which took place in the early morning, targeted the fighters on the first floor of a shop in the bazaar in Miramshah. The identity of those killed was not disclosed, and no senior al Qaeda or Taliban leaders have been reported killed at this time.
June 25 - Yemen. An al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula commander and two fighters killed in an airstrike near the southern port city of Aden. A pair of missiles were fired at a pickup truck travelling in the desert in the Beer Hameed area outside of Aden, Yemeni military officials said. The officials said that a senior AQAP commander and two fighters were killed, but did not disclose the name of the slain commander.
Today's strike in Aden is the first in the province since the US started the campaign in 2009. AQAP is known to have a presence in Aden. Just a week ago in Aden, a suicide bomber killed Brigadier General Salem Ali al Quton, the commander of Yemen's southern military district, who directed the offensive that cleared the terror group from the major cities and towns in Abyan and Shabwa provinces. Quton was killed when a suicide bomber detonated outside of the general's home. AQAP claimed credit for the attack and accused the US of directing the war against the terror group in Yemen.
June 26 - North Waziristan. Five 'militants' killed at a compound in the remote Shawal Valley. No senior al Qaeda, Taliban, or allied jihadist commanders are reported to have been killed in today's strike.
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 border with Afghanistan.