The American drone attacks, which had begun exactly nine years, four months and five days ago on June 18, 2004 in northwest Pakistan, have, to date, killed a lot of top al-Qaeda operatives, Tehreek-e-Taliban leaders and their supporters hailing from other militant outfits such as Haqqani network and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan etc.
A research conducted by “The News International,” by taking into account the reports published or aired by reputed international media outlets like the BBC, the Daily Telegraph, the CNN, the New York Times, Reuters, Associated Press, the Guardian, Al-Jazeera, Fox News and AFP etc reveals that on June 18, 2004, around half a dozen people, including a key Al-Qaeda figure Nek Muhammad Wazir, were the first ones to be targeted in a drone strike near Wana, South Waziristan.
The Pakistan Army had initially claimed the attack as its own work and since then, drone attacks on the Pakistani soil are a regular feature.
Other top al-Qaeda leaders and their allies/supporters who have perished in drone attacks in Pakistani territories since June 18, 2004 include Haitham al-Yemeni (May 14, 2005), Al-Qaeda’s 3rd in command Abu Hamza Rabia’s wife and three children (November 5, 2005), Abu Hamza Rabia himself (November 30, 2005), Abu Laith al-Libi (January 29, 2008), Abu Sulayman Al-Jazairi (May 14, 2008), Midhat Mursi (July 28, 2008), Abdul Rehman and Islam Wazir (August 13, 2008), Abu Ubaydah al Tunisi (September 17, 2008), Khalid Habib (October 16, 2008), Mohammad Hasan Khalil al-Hakim alias Abu Jihad al-Masri (October 31, 2008), Abdullah Azam al-Saudi (November 19, 2008), Rashid Rauf and Abu Zubair al-Masri (November 22, 2008), Usama al-Kini and Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan (January 1, 2009), Baitullah Mehsud, his wife, and his wife’s parents (August 5, 2009), Tahir Yuldashev (August 27, 2009), Hanifullah Janikhel and Kaleemullah (September 7, 2009), Irfan Mehsud (September 29, 2009), Abu Ayyub al-Masri (October 21, 2009), Faqir Mohammed’s nephew Zahid (October 24, 2009), Saleh al-Somali (December 8, 2009), Abdullah Said al Libi and Zuhaib al Zahibi (December 17, 2009), Haji Omar Khan (December 31, 2009), Mahmoud Mahdi Zeidan, the bodyguard for al-Qaeda leader Sayeed al-Masri and Jamal Saeed Abdul Rahim, the alleged hijacker of Pan Am Flight 73 flight in 1986 (January 9, 2010), Abdul Haq al-Turkistani (February 15, 2010), Sheikh Mansoor (February 17, 2010), Mohammed Haqqani, the brother of Afghan Taliban commander Siraj Haqqani who leads the Haqqani network (February 18, 2010), Bahadar Mansoor, Rana Afzal and Mohammed Qari Zafar, the head of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the person responsible for the 2002 and 2006 bombing of the U.S. consulate in Karachi (October 24, 2010), Hussein al-Yemeni, also called Sadam Hussein Al Hussami, an Al-Qaeda terrorist who planned the December 30, 2009 Camp Chapman attack near the eastern Afghan city of Khost, killing 10 people (March 8, 2010), brother of Taliban commander Maulvi Kalam (May 11, 2010), the 3rd in command of Al-Qaeda Saeed al-Masri, his wife and three children (May 21, 2010), Abu Ahmed Tarkash (June 19, 2010), Hamza al-Jufi, an Egyptian member of Al-Qaeda (June 29, 2010), Inayatullah (September 3, 2010), Saifullah Haqqani, a military commander in Afghanistan and a cousin of Siraj Haqqani (September 14, 2010), Saifullah Haqqani, first cousin of Haqqani Network leader Sirajuddin Haqqani (September 15, 2010), Sheikh Fateh Al Misri, Al-Qaeda’s 3rd in command (September 25, 2010), 20 year-old German citizen Bunyamin and three other German nationals (October 4, 2010), Ilyas Kashmiri (June 3, 2011), Saifullah, an Australian and Al-Qaeda supporter (July 5, 2011), Al-Qaeda’s second in command Atiyah Abd al-Rahman (August 22, 2011), Abu Hafs al Shari, Al-Qaeda’s operational chief and the replacement for Atiyah Abdel Rahman (September 11, 2011), Hafeezullah, a commander in the Haqqani network (September 12, 2011), Jan Baz Zadran, a logistics commander for the Haqqani network and Abu Miqdad al Masri, a member of al-Qaida’s Shura Majlis or executive council along with his two sons Al Miqdad Rafie Mustafa and Khalid Rafie Mustafa (October 13, 2011), Taj Gul Mehsud (October 26, 2011), Aslam Awan, also known as Abdullah Khorasani (January 10, 2012), Aslam Awan, a deputy to the leader of al Qaeda’s external operations network (January 11, 2012), Badr Mansoor, who was the al-Qaeda chief for Pakistan along with his wife and two children (February 8, 2012), Samir, a German jihadist (March 9, 2012), Amir Hamza, Shamsullah and Qari Haleemullah (March 13, 2012), Abu Usman Adil, emir of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (April 29, 2012), Al-Qaeda second in command Abu Yahya al-Libi (June 4, 2012), Emeti Yakuf, also known by his local name as Abdul Jabbar (August 24, 2012), Abu Kasha al Iraqi and Fateh al Turki (September 24, 2012), Maulvi Nazir (January 2, 2013), senior Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan commander based in South Waziristan and Baitullah Mehsud’s spokesman Waliur Rehman Mehsud (May 29, 2013) and Mullah Sangeen Zadran, deputy to Sirajuddin Haqqani of the Haqqani Network, and Zubir al Muzi, an al-Qaeda explosives expert from Egypt (September 5, 2013) etc.
While the January 13, 2006 drone attack had missed the most sought-after Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri, the June 23, 2009 assault had failed to target Baitullah Mehsud.
Similarly, Sirajuddin Haqqani had survived a drone strike on August 21, 2009, the late Ilyas Kashmiri had survived on June 3, 2011, Hakimullah Mehsud could only be injured by drones on January 17, 2010, the October 17, 2009 strike had aimed unsuccessfully at Sheikh Saeed al Saudi, Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law and a member of al Qaeda’s executive council and Hafiz Gul Bahadar, a local Taliban leader and chief of the North Waziristan Shura, had evaded death through this mode on March 10, 2010.
It is imperative to note that the General Musharraf regime had allowed the drones to operate from Shamsi Airfield in Pakistan until April 21, 2011, when 150 Americans had left the base that was eventually taken over by the Pakistani authorities in December 2011.