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al-Qaeda Attacked: Zawahiri Dead?

Unconfirmed reports from Pakistani and U.S. intelligence sources indicate a CIA airstrike was carried out against a compound in Pakistan which contained Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s number two in command, and four other unnamed senior al-Qaeda leaders. Eighteen people are believed to have been killed in the strike.

According to Reuters, “A Pakistani intelligence official said four U.S. aircraft had intruded into Pakistani airspace and fired four missiles.” The Counterterrorism Blog quotes a source which indicate ten missiles were fired. The aircraft are believed to have been predator drones, presumably armed with Hellfire missiles.

The strike is said to have occurred in the rural town of Damadola, a small village near the Afghan border in the province of Bajaur, which is about ninety miles North of North Waziristan, the scene of recent unrest in Pakistan and an area believed to be an al-Qaeda and Taliban stronghold. A Pakistani intelligence source claims, according to Reuters, “Damadola has been a stronghold of Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (Movement for the Implementation of Mohammad’s Sharia Law), a pro-Taliban group banned by Pakistan in January 2002.”

DNA testing will be required for positive identification, but reaching the site of the attack may prove difficult. Adnkronos reports “People are very angry. They are not allowing access” to the crash site. The town sits right on the border with Afghanistan in a remote location where Pakistani troops are not believed to be operating. The survivors may bury or destroy the remains before an investigative team arrives, and which may be required to fight their way to the scene of the attack.

If Zawahiri’s death is confirmed, he will be yet the latest and most senior member of al-Qaeda killed in Pakistan. The tribal regions of Pakistan have long been a haven for al-Qaeda and the Taliban since their ouster in the winter of 2002. The Taliban has recently threatened to step up attacks, and there are reports al-Qaeda is shifting focus from Iraq to Afghanistan. In Zawahiri’s letter to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, he intimates that Pakistan’s tribal belt is the main base of operations into Afghanistan for al-Qaeda and the Taliban; “the real danger [to al-Qaeda] comes from the agent Pakistani army that is carrying out operations in the tribal areas looking for mujahideen.”

The death of Zawahiri, if true, would be a devastating loss for al-Qaeda. Zawahiri is believed to be the mastermind and guiding hand of the organization, and his roots in jihad against the West extend to his early teenage years. He was arrested at the age of fifteen for being a member of the Egyptian Brotherhood, was complicit in the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, led Egyptian Islamic Jihad, and went to Afghanistan to fight the Soviets. It was in Afghanistan where he met Osama bin Laden, and forged the bonds and led to the absorption of Egyptian Islamic Jihad into al-Qaeda’s network, and his rise to power in the terrorist group.

Zawahiri is the pragmatist in al-Qaeda. His experiences during his incarceration in Egypt after the Sadat assassination taught him to respect the power of the Middle Eastern rulers, and despite his acceptance of the intolerant Salafist worldview, he understands the need for the measured application of violence. His letter to Zarqawi shows his deftness in understanding the need to only commit acts of violence which will have a beneficial result. Zawahiri recognizes Zarqawi’s indiscriminate slaughter of Shiites and Sunnis alike is alienating the Iraqi people.

The death of Zawahiri would be a major psychological victory for the United States, as he has been targeted since the attacks on 9-11. Zawahiri’s own words in his recently released video tape would provide rich irony to his death; “you have to confess that you are defeated in Iraq, and you are defeated in Afghanistan and you will soon be defeated in Palestine, with Allah’s help.” It is difficult to argue al-Qaeda is winning the war if its number two in command is killed in a nameless, meaningless town in the backwaters of Pakistan by an American missile strike.

Reference

Listed below are links that reference al-Qaeda Attacked: Zawahiri Dead?:

» Is al-Zawahiri dead? from Small Town Veteran
... Click here for Bill Roggio's analysis. Bill brings up the very significant point that the village where al-Zawahiri may or may not have been killed is in Taliban-friendly territory, which may make it difficult to recover remains for a positive I.D. [Read More]

» The Life and Death of High Value al Qaeda Targets from Stormwarning's Counterterrorism
So much has been written on the Internet recently...much of it conjecture, spreading of rumor and often, simply unsubstantiated wishful thinking that I need to highlight a flash presentation from ThreatsWatch that provides a chronology of known events.... [Read More]

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In Celebration of the reported demise of Dr. Z, by drone delivered Hellfire missles in the mountains of Warizistan last night, the Candies & Sweets will be handed out tonight, to all the children and adults on our block, here in the Valley of the Sun, Phx., AZ.

In case this is a premature Celebration, candies & sweets will be held in reserve to supply future comtingencies

What's interesting to me is that traditionally during the winter the fighting slowed down as al Qaeda/Taliban was restricted from easy movement in the mountains. It seems to me that this winter both the Coalition Forces and the Pakistani Army are much more active than usual. I would assume that is a concious effort to deprive al Qaeda/Taliban of the opportunity to rest and regenerate.

Any ideological mass movements like AlQaeda whose ideology is based on a mainstream source of guidance like 'Koran' for example are least affected in terms of their strength by what they call 'martyrdom' of one or more top leadership. It however, probably does change the tactics and strategy of such movements. Take example of Muslim Brotherhood who survived brutal regimes and ruthless persecution and killings. Islamic Jihad is an offshoot of Brotherhood and they are produce of the view that more peaceful and conciliatory methods used by Brotherhood weren't necessarily being helpful. AlQaeda and Taleban are mass movements and a 21st century phenomenon which seems highly unlikely to stop short of a substantial if not absolute victory. let's say it's the Marxism of 21st century whose ideology and guidance were redrafted or reformed or refreshed or rejuvinated in 20th century.

Predator B is an awesome machine. While the press is fixated on Hellfires though, my bet is this was a GBU kill.
Of course the press has little idea what that means ... but they can at least "spell" H-E-L-L-F-I-R-E, but I betcha notta a one knows that is an acronym. Few do - it is one of the best ones too.

It's obviously very difficult to tell exactly what happened in Damadola given all the competing stories, e.g., there were 5 militants killed, no it was only villagers killed, etc.

However, for me, it's telling that Carlotta Gall who has been a correspondent for the NYT living in Afghanistan for the past several years has the following quote in her article today.

"Local officials in the Bajaur district, where the airstrike happened, said 18 civilians had been killed in the attack, including six children. But the senior Pakistani official who spoke of Mr. Zawahiri suggested that the death toll was higher, and he said that at least 11 militants had been killed in the attack. Seven of the dead were Arab fighters, and another four were Pakistani militants from Punjab Province, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the news media."

Given that the U.S. has not rushed to apologize for the bombing, I'm compelled to believe that her quote may be quite close to the truth.

Airstrike by U.S. Draws Protests From Pakistanis

I don't know about Zawahiri, but there's a new "report" about bin Laden that I've just noticed.

Here's another interesting twist in this "he's dead" and "he's not dead yet" Internet spin.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200601/s1547926.htm

Key to this is the statement that according to this Australian professor, "that bin Laden died of massive organ failure in April last year."

This is better than the kids' game, "Where's Waldo."

10 Hellfires at 4 per Predator would mean 3 Predators were used in the attack.

Does this sound likely?

Has anyone heard of multiple Predators being used brfore?

I personally think that by going over the heads of friends we risk frank future cooperation. But the incident follows common pattern with similar incidents in the past i.,e.,it happened immediately before the arrival of Bush senior from US and departure of Shaukat Aziz from Pakistan to US.