Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
July 27, 2008

U.S. Ground Operation in Pakistan

There have been three attacks in the area of Damadola, a town in the Pakistani district of Bajaur next to Afghanistan's Kunar province. (Robert Lindsay provides a map and pictures of the area. Google has high res(!) satellite pictures of the Damadola area.)

So far all three had been described as missile attacks by U.S. predator drones. As it turns out now, one of these attacks was actually a U.S. special forces ground operations within Pakistan. Seal Team 6  killed 82 people, many of them pupils at a local school. The U.S. forces also abducted some of the people. What happened to them is unknown.

On January 13 2006 at least 18 people were killed when four Hellfire missiles hit houses in Damadola. The attack purportedly targeted Ayman al-Zawahiri, second-in-command of al-Qaeda after Osama bin Laden, who was thought to be in the village.

On October 30 2006 another attack was reported to have hit a madrassa a few miles east in Chenagai. Between 70 and 80 people are said to have been killed, and an eyewitness has stated that the madrassa school was filled with local students who had resumed studies after the Eid ul-Fitr holiday.

There were various official versions of that incident. Villagers reported to have seen U.S. drones and anonymous Pakistani military sources confirmed this. But officially the Pakistani army claimed to have attacked the madrassa and journalists were kept away from the place by Pakistani paramilitary forces. Analyzing a reprisal suicide attack on a Pakistani army base that followed in November 2006 the Indian analyst B. Raman recapitulated:

There has been considerable controversy regarding the origin of the air attack and the background of the students killed. The local villagers have been claiming that the attack was made by an American Predator aircraft, which flew into the area from Afghanistan. This has been played up by the Pakistani media.  ..  However, this version has been strengthened by a US TV channel, which has quoted unidentified Pakistani intelligence officials as saying that the attack was carried out by an American Predator aircraft because the Americans had information that Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, the No.2 to Osama bin Laden in Al Qaeda, was in the madrasa at that time. The Pakistani authorities have denied the presence of any high-level Al Qaeda personality in the madrasa when it was attacked.

The Pakistani authorities have claimed that it was they, who carried out the attack because they had received reliable intelligence that the madrasa was training suicide bombers for operations in Afghanistan. The Pakistani Army has released a list of persons killed showing all of them to be above 20 years of age. The religious parties have released their own lists of persons killed, showing them to be below 20 years of age. It is not possible to verify either list at present.

Another attack at Damadola by confirmed predator drones happened last year on May 14. It killed at least 12 people.

Today's LA Times refers to one of the above attacks in a story about the war of terror in Pakistan:

In 2006, one of the nation's most elite units, Seal Team 6, raided a suspected Al Qaeda compound at Damadola.

At CIA headquarters in Virginia, a roomful of people watched on video streamed from a Predator surveillance plane, officials said. They included high-ranking officials such as Albert M. Calland III, then the deputy director.

"They choppered in, rappelled down and went into the compound," said a former official familiar with the operation. "It was tactically very well executed."

Several mid-level operatives were detained, according to the official. The raid was separate from the January 2006 Predator strike in Damadola that missed Al Qaeda's No. 2, Ayman Zawahiri, the official said.

The only event reported in the media that would fit the LA Times description is the October 30 attack. If the LA Times sources are correct, U.S. ground troops attacked the madrassa, killed 82 sleeping students and teachers, abducted several, blew up the compound and had the Pakistani military covering their back.

One report at that time claimed that helicopters took part in that attack. As the attack started at 5:00 in the morning, i.e. in the dark, it is unlikely that Pakistani pilots were flying those helicopters.

Now the questions. What happened to those 'several mid-level operatives' that were 'detained'? Who tortured them when and where? Are they still alive?

Posted by b on July 27, 2008 at 14:47 UTC | Permalink


Six Killed In Missile Strike In Pakistan

WANA, Pakistan (Reuters) - At least six people, including three foreign Islamist militants, were killed in a suspected U.S. missile strike on Monday in a Pakistani region known as a safe haven for al Qaeda, intelligence officials and residents said.

The attack took place near Azam Warsak village in the South Waziristan tribal region, bordering Afghanistan.

"At least three missiles struck the house at around 4:00 a.m. (6:00 pm EDT), killing six people and wounding three," an intelligence official in the region said.

Posted by: b | Jul 28 2008 5:02 utc | 1

I wonder if they're deliberately trying to turn Pakistan into a failed state. It was notable how much emphasis Obama put on Pakistan in speeches recently, describing it is the vital key to Afghanistan. Maybe they're worried about "losing" Pakistan to some of the democratically elected parties recently over whom they don't have any control. I guess their policy has not had any good options since the assination.

Posted by: swio | Jul 28 2008 10:57 utc | 2

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