LAHORE: Despite having conducted a record number of 124 drone strikes in the tribal areas of Pakistan on the Pak-Afghan border in 2010, which killed 1224 people, the US predators could hunt down only 20 of the 100-plus high value targets (HVTs), which were on the CIA hit list.
According to data, gathered by The News primarily from local and international news sources, although American drones were able to hunt down a total of 481 terrorists in 2010 at the cost of 703 civilians, the number of high value targets they were tasked to exterminate could not cross the double digit of 20.
While the number of the drone strikes from 2008 to 2009 increased by roughly 50 percent, they have more than doubled in number from 2009 to 2010. The primary target of the US airstrikes remains al-Qaeda’s external operations network, which is assigned to conduct attacks outside Afghanistan and Pakistan.
And as had been the case in the past, the US drone campaign continued to focus, even in 2010, almost exclusively on the tribal agencies of North and South Waziristan. Of the 481 al-Qaeda and Taliban linked terrorists belonging to different militant groups killed by the drones, only 20 were high value targets. The first HVT casualty of the drones was Haji Omar Khan, a key Pakistani Taliban leader, who was killed on January 1. The second target killed on January 4 was Mansur al Shami, a senior al-Qaeda ideologue.
The third one was Jamal Saeed Abdul Rahim, an Abu Nidal Organization operative, who was hunted down on January 8. The fourth one was Abdul Basit Usman, a master bomb maker of al-Qaeda, who was perished on January 14. The fifth was Sheikh Mansoor, an al-Qaeda-linked commander of the Shadow Army, who was killed on February 17.
The sixth high value target killed by US drones was Mohammad Haqqani, a mid-level military commander of the Haqqani militant network who was also the younger brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani, the commander of the Haqqani militant network; he was killed on February 18. The seventh most wanted victim of drones was Qari Mohammad Zafar, a Pakistani leader of al-Qaeda-linked Fidayeen-e-Islam, who was wanted by the Americans for attacking US Consulate in Karachi in 2006. He was killed on February 24, 2010. The eight HVT killed on March 10 was Saddam Hussein Al Hussami, also known as Ghazwan al Yemeni, a senior al-Qaeda operative, who was involved in the December 2009 suicide attack in the Khost district of Afghanistan that killed seven CIA officials.
However, the Americans scored their biggest success in their ongoing drone campaign on May 21, when they killed Sheikh Saeed al Masri, also known as Mustafa Abu Yazid, one of al-Qaeda’s top leaders, handling the finances of the terror group. The Americans achieved their tenth target on May 28 when they killed Osama bin Ali bin Abdullah bin Damjan al Dawsari, a leading al-Qaeda operative. The eleventh HVT killed by drones was Abu Ibrahim, the chief operations commander of Fursan-e-Mohammad, an al-Qaeda linked group in North Waziristan who was killed on June 10.
The twelfth target killed on June 10 was Sheikh Ehsanullah, a top al-Qaeda commander who used to conduct operations in Afghanistan. The thirteenth target killed on June 19 was Abu Ahmed, another al-Qaeda military commander. The fourteenth casualty of the US drones was a North Waziristan-based top Taliban commander, Inayatullah, who was killed on September 3.
The fifteenth most wanted terrorist killed on September 14 was Saifullah Haqqani, a senior military commander of Haqqani militant network in Afghanistan and a cousin of Siraj Haqqani. The sixteenth target achieved by US drones on September 21 was Taliban military commander Mullah Shamsullah, who was operating on the border between South and North Waziristan.
The seventeenth high value target hunted down by drones was Sheikh Abdul Raziq, popularly known as Sheikh Al Fateh Al Misri, killed on September 26. He was al-Qaeda’s operational chief for Pakistan and Afghanistan. The eighteenth and the nineteenth most wanted terrorists killed on December 17 were Ibne Amin, al-Qaeda linked Swat Taliban commander and Ali Marjan, a key Lashkar-e-Islami commander. The twentieth and the last high value target killed in 2010 was Hafeezullah, the chief of the Tehrik-e-Taliban, Pakistan, in the Upper and Lower Dir areas of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, who was killed on December 22.
However, there are many most wanted al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders who were on the CIA hit list as high value targets but were lucky enough to have survived the drones included. A few important names include amongst many others—al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, his deputy Dr Adman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s No 3 Sheikh Yunis al-Mauretani; the ameer of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Mohammad Omar; al-Qaeda’s chief operational commander for Pakistan and Afghanistan, Saif Al Adal; al-Qaeda’s chief military strategists for terror operations in the West, Commander Ilyas Kashmiri; the chief of the Haqqani militant network, Jalaluddin Haqqani; the operational commander of the Haqqani network, Sirajuddin Haqqani; bin Laden’s son, Saad bin Laden; Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan ameer Hakeemullah Mehsud; his fellow commanders, Maulvi Faqeer Mohammad, and Waliur Rehman Mehsud, Taliban renegades in Waziristan; Hafiz Gul Buhadar and Maulvi Nazir.