WASHINGTON, June 1 US missiles from unmanned drones have eliminated about half of 20 prominent Al Qaeda and other extremist leaders the US identifies as “high-value targets”, The Washington Post reported on Monday.
All of them were killed along the Pakistan-Afghan border, the report said.
It did not say who or what the `high-value` targets were but a document obtained recently by this correspondent did identify some of them.
The US document, conveyed to Pakistan, also claimed that the drones had eliminated a significant number of Al Qaeda leaders and local militants in Fata and had also destroyed their hideouts.
According to this document, on Dec 3, 2007, a Predator strike injured Sheikh Issa al-Masri in Jani Khel, Bannu.
On Jan 28, 2008, a Predator killed HVT (high-value target) Abu Layth Al-Libi and associates in Salam Kot, North Waziristan.
On Feb 27, 2008, a drone killed some foreign Al Qaeda trainees. On March 16, 2008, more Al Qaeda trainees were killed. The document does not identify those killed in these attacks and does not reveal the places hit by the drones.
On May 14, 2008, a Predator killed HVT Abu Sulayman Al-Jazairi and associates in Damadola, Bajaur.
On July 28, 2008, a Predator strike killed Abu Khabab Al-Masri and other Al Qaeda activists.
On Aug 12, 2008, a Predator killed foreign fighters and militants associated with HVT Usama Al-Kini and commander Nazir.
On Aug 20, 2008, a drone killed and injured multiple foreign Al Qaeda members and local associates, including some Haqqani network associates. An Al Qaeda facilitator Haji Yaqub was injured.
On Aug 27, 2008, a Predator attempted to target an Al Qaeda-associated meeting but missed target. It did not cause collateral damage.
On Aug 30, 2008, a Predator strike killed Al Qaeda paramilitary operatives subordinate to Al Qaeda commander and East Africa Embassy bomber Usama Al Kini. On Aug 31, 2008, a Predator killed several Al Qaeda operatives, including two prominent Al Qaeda paramilitary commanders.
On Sept 2, 2008, a Predator killed four to 10 persons associated with Al Qaeda commander and logistician Abu Wafa Al Saudi.
On Sept 4, 2008, a Predator strike killed Abu Wafa Al Saudi.
On Sept 8, 2008, a Predator killed several Haqqani sub-commanders and a number of Arabs. Members of the extended Haqqani family were killed.
On Sept 11, 2008, a Predator killed 10 to 15 militants associated with Al Qaeda facilitator Qari Imran`s training camp.
On Sept 17, 2008, a Predator killed 4-6 militants delivering rockets to a militant camp near the Afghan border and probably HVT Abu Ubaydh Al Tunisi.
Although drone strikes were initiated by the Bush administration, the Obama administration also authorised about four or five Predator attacks a month when it assumed power in January.
The CIA, which does not publicly acknowledge the attacks, operates the aircraft, chooses the targets — ideally with the cooperation of Pakistani intelligence on the ground — and has the White House authority to fire the missiles without prior consultation outside the intelligence agency.
A senior Pakistani official told the Post the rate had not diminished in recent weeks, although “you don`t hear so much about it” because the strike areas had been more isolated.
“There are better targets and better intelligence on the ground,” the Pakistani official said. “It`s less of a crapshoot.”
The CIA considers the Predator the most effective tool available in a conflict in which the US military is barred from conducting offensive operations on land or in the air.
The Washington Post reported that while Al Qaeda remained a serious, potent threat, US counter-terrorism official believed the group had suffered some serious losses and seemed to be feeling a heightened sense of anxiety.
The offensive in Swat against its Taliban allies also posed a dilemma for Al Qaeda, a senior US military official told the Post.