ISLAMABAD: The December 1 death of another key al-Qaeda leader, Abdul Rehman al Zaman Yemeni, in an American drone strike in Wana area of South Waziristan has once again given credence to the Western intelligence claims that the Waziristan region continues to be a hotbed of the most-wanted al-Qaeda radicals, more than 11 years after the 9/11 terror attacks and the subsequent launching of the US-led war against terror.
Abdul Rehman Yemeni, who was an Arab national with close ties to al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, was the 50th top al-Qaeda leader to have been killed by a US drone in Pakistan since the launching of the deadly drive in 2005. Yemeni was killed when a remotely-piloted drone targeted a car in Shin Warsak area near Wana, the headquarters of the South Waziristan Agency. The predator strike that targeted Abdul Rehman Yemeni was the 43rd carried out by the CIA since January 1, 2012. The CIA runs the drone programme and has carried out a total of 338 predator strikes in Pakistan since 2005, primarily targeting al-Qaeda-linked wanted terrorists in Waziristan region.
According to statistics compiled by the Ministry of Interior, six important al-Qaeda leaders have been killed since January this year in 43 drone attacks in Pakistan. Of those terminated by the US drones included Abu Kasha al Iraqi and Fateh al Turki (killed on September 24), Emeti Yakuf aka Abdul Jabbar of East Turkistan Movement (killed on August 24), Badruddin Haqqani of the Haqqani network (killed August 21), al-Qaeda’s second in command Abu Yahya al-Libi (killed on June 4), Shamsullah and Amir Hamza Tojikhel (killed on March 13), and commander Badr Mansoor (killed on February 9).
Ten key al-Qaeda leaders were killed in 72 strikes conducted by the US drones in 2011. These included four al-Qaeda commanders of the Pakistani origin, Muhammad Khan, Hazrat Omar, Miraj Wazir and Ashfaq Wazir (killed on October 27), Taj Gul Mehsud (killed on October 26), Janbaz Zadran of the Haqqani network (killed on October 13), Aleemullah aka Haleemullah (killed on September 30), al-Qaeda’s chief of operation in Pakistan Abu Hafs al-Shahri (killed on September 11), Dr Ayman Zawahiri’s No 2 in al-Qaeda Atiyah Abd al-Rahman (killed on August 22), and Commander Ilyas Kashmiri (killed on June 3, 2011).
Eight important al-Qaeda leaders were killed in a record number of 122 drone strikes which were carried out by the CIA in Pakistan in 2008. Those who were hunted down included Ali Marjan (killed on December 17), al-Qaeda chief in Afghanistan and Pakistan Sheikh al-Fateh, (killed on September 26), Ameer Moawia (killed on August 14), al-Qaeda’s No3 Mustafa Abu al-Yazid (killed on May 21), al-Qaeda planner and explosives expert Saddam Hussein Al Hussami, also known as Ghazwan Al-Yemeni (killed on March 8), Egyptian-Canadian al-Qaeda leader Sheikh Mansoor (killed on February 17), the chief of the Turkistani Islamic Party Abdul Haq al-Turkistani (killed on February 15) and Mahmood Mahdi Zeidan (killed on January 7, 2010).
The Americans had conducted 54 drone strikes in 2009 and successfully killed 10 wanted al-Qaeda leaders. Those killed by the US drones included a well known al-Qaeda commander Zuhaib al-Zahibi (killed on December 17), chief of al-Qaeda external operations Saleh al-Somali (killed on December 8), Nazimuddin Zalalov alias Yahyo, an Islamic Jehad of Uzbekistan leader and a lieutenant of a- Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden (killed on September 14), al-Qaeda-linked ameer of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Commander Baitullah Mehsud (killed on August 5), Osama bin Laden’s son Saad Bin Laden (killed on July 22), Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Sangeen (killed on June 23), an Algerian al-Qaeda planner wanted by CIA Abu Suleman al Jazairi (killed on April 29), and Osama al Kini and Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan, two al-Qaeda terrorists wanted for their role in the 1998 bombings of two American embassies in African countries (killed on January 7, 2009).
A record number of 14 wanted al-Qaeda leaders were killed in 36 drone strikes carried out by US drones in Pakistan in 2008. Those terminated included Abu Zubair al Masri (killed on November 22), Abdullah Azzam al Saudi (killed on November 19), al-Qaeda’s propaganda chief Mohammad Hasan Khalil al-Hakim aka Abu Jehad al Masri (killed on October 31), Mohammad Omar (killed on October 26), Khalid Habib (killed on October 16), al-Qaeda’s chief of cross-border operations against the US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan Abu Hassan al Rimi (killed on October 8), the then al-Qaeda chief in Pakistan Abu Haris (killed on September 8), al-Qaeda logistician Abu Wafa Al Saudi (killed on September 4), Abdul Rehman and Islam Wazir (killed on August 12), al-Qaeda’s WMD expert Abu Khabab al Masri (killed on July 28) Abu Sulayman Jazairi, another Algerian al-Qaeda planner distinct from a person of same name killed in April 2009 (killed on May 14), and the No2 in al-Qaeda hierarchy Abu Laith al Libi, who had orchestrated a 2007 suicide attack against US Vice President Dick Cheney while he was visiting Bagram (killed on January 29, 2008).
The American CIA had conducted four drone attacks in Pakistan in 2007 and two such strikes in 2006 but no key al-Qaeda leader could be killed in those six attacks. But two important al-Qaeda leaders were killed in three drone attacks which were conducted by the CIA in 2005. Those killed inside the Pakistani territory in those strikes included a top al-Qaeda commander Abu Hamza Rabia (killed on December 1) and al-Qaeda’s explosives’ expert from Yemen, Haitham al-Yemeni (killed on May 18, 2005).
The primary target of the drone strikes remains al-Qaeda’s external operations network, which is assigned to conduct attacks outside Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, there are still many key al-Qaeda leaders who are on the hit list of the CIA but have survived the drone attacks so far. Some of them included al-Qaeda chief Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri, the ameer of Afghan Taliban Mullah Mohammad Omar, al-Qaeda’s chief operational commander for Pakistan and Afghanistan Saif Al Adal, operational commander of Haqqani militant network Sirajuddin Haqqani, al-Qaeda’s official spokesman Sulaiman Abu Ghath, spiritual leader of al-Qaeda Abu Hafs al-Mauritani, al-Qaeda’s field commander for operations in Afghanistan, etc.
The CIA hit list carries the names of six key al-Qaeda and Taliban-linked militant leaders from Pakistan who are considered common enemies by Washington and Islamabad. They include the fugitive TTP ameer Hakimullah Mehsud, his No2 Waliur Rehman, Maulvi Faqeer Mohammad, Hafiz Gul Buhadar, Maulvi Nazir and Ehsanullah Ehsan.