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By Alex Shone, UK Defence Forum Research Associate in Residence

Total drone attacks for 2011 have now reached 12 according to the Long War Journal resulting in a total of 66 insurgent and terrorist casualties. Of the 227 attacks since 2004, 71% occurred in North Waziristan and 23% in South Waziristan.

An apparent pause in reported drone strikes that began on the 24th January ended on the 20th February. Around 20 suspected insurgents have been killed in drone strikes this month.

24th February:

Unmanned US Predators strike in Pakistan, in the Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan. Six suspected insurgents were reported killed in the third strike in five days. The recent strikes mark an end to a pause in the Predator program that sparked much speculation as to the causes.

In this attack a compound and a car were targeted according to Pakistan newspaper Dawn. No senior Taliban or al Qaeda fighters have been reported killed in the attack.

The Datta Khel area is known to host a plethora of al Qaeda and allied jihadist and Taliban groups. The area is administered by the Taliban commander for North Waziristan, Hafiz Gul Bahadar. He provides shelter to top al Qaeda leaders as well as terrorists from numerous Pakistani and Central Asian terror groups.

Datta Khel is a known hub of Taliban, Haqqani Network, and al Qaeda activity. Datta Khel serves as a command and control centre for al Qaeda's top leaders.

21st February:

US Predators struck in Pakistan's Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan. Nine suspected insurgents were reported killed in the second strike in two days.

The latest strike took place in the town of Spalga (also known as Aspalga) in the Miramshah area of North Waziristan. Four missiles were fired at a compound in the town.

The town of Spalga is located in the sphere of influence of the Haqqani Network, a powerful Taliban group closely allied to al Qaeda and a favorite of Pakistan's military and intelligence services. The Haqqani Network shelters and supports al Qaeda, and launches attacks against Coalition and Afghan forces across the border.

20th February:

Unmanned US strike aircraft killed five suspected insurgents in an attack in Pakistan's contested tribal agency of South Waziristan. The strike was the first in South Waziristan since last year, and ends a long pause in strikes in Pakistan that began on Jan. 24.

The drones fired three missiles at a Taliban compound in the village of Kaza Panga, which is about 10 miles west of Wana, the main town in South Waziristan.

A senior al Qaeda operative and several "Punjabi" terrorists are reported to have been killed in this strike though this has been neither confirmed nor denied by US officials.

Abu Zaid al Iraqi, an al Qaeda operative who is also known as Ali Khan, is said to have been killed along with several "foreigners" in the Feb. 20 strike in the town of Kaza Panga in the Azam Warzak area of South Waziristan. Reports indicate that between five and seven suspected were killed in yesterday's strike.

Abu Zaid is said to be al Qaeda's top financier in Pakistan. Previously, al Qaeda's top financial official in the Afghan-Pakistan region was Mustafa Abu Yazid, the Egyptian commander who also led al Qaeda in the Khorasan. Yazid was killed in a US Predator airstrike in North Waziristan on May 21, 2010.

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