The New Year got off to to a bad start for the Taliban in Pakistan as separate U.S. and Pakistani air strikes killed at least 37, possibly as many as 41, militants in aerial raids that were said to be part of an ongoing retaliation campaign for the horrific Taliban massacre of 132 schoolchildren and 13 adults in a Peshawar school last month.
In Pakistan’s North Waziristan region, a Taliban stronghold, a United States drone strike targeted a compound owned by top regional terrorist commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur. The two missiles fired from the unmanned, remotely controlled aircraft killed at least six Taliban. According to other reports, as many as 10 Taliban militants may have died in the strike.
According to a report in The New York Times, the U.S. drone strike was aimed at taking out a leading Taliban militant from Uzbekistan, known only as Usman.
“The drone targeted a base of an Uzbek commander known as Usman, killing six Uzbek militants. Two militants are wounded,” a Pakistan security official told the Times.
The Taliban leader “Usman” is reported to be a top lieutenant to Gul Bahadur, but whether either of the two terrorists were killed or were even present at the compound when the drone strike hit has not been confirmed.
While the Pakistan government routinely condemns U.S. drone strikes as violation of the country’s territorial sovereignty, the Pakistan military has been waging its own campaign against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda-liked terror groups that have established bases in the country’s more remote regions and carried out a series of bloody attacks, including December’s Peshawar School Massacre.
After the school slaughter, Pakistan intensified its military operations against the militants, and on Saturday, the Pakistan Air Force bombed four Taliban bases in the country’s remote Tirah Valley in the Khyber region, northeast of North Waziristan on the country’s border with Afghanistan.
“31 terrorists, including some suicide bombers, were killed in precise aerial strikes,” the Pakistan military said in a statement. The military’s claim has not been independently confirmed.
The Pakistan government has been fighting since last summer to retake the North Waziristan territory from the Taliban and other foreign terror organizations who have moved in and taken over in recent years. The Pakistan military now claims that it controls 90 percent of the territory.
Nonetheless, even after the New Year’s strikes agains the Taliban, terrorist activities continue. In the Orakzai region, just southwest of Khyber, a bomb planted on the grounds of a volleyball court killed five people at a match there over the weekend.