Pakistani troops and helicopters firing missiles killed as many as 80 militants training at a religious school used as an al-Qaida training center near the Afghan border, officials said.
Local leaders said all those slain when the school, or madrassa, was destroyed were civilians.
Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan said initial estimates based on intelligence sources on the ground indicated that the attack killed about 80 suspected militants, who appeared to be in their 20s and were from Pakistan and other countries.
“These militants were involved in actions inside Pakistan and probably in Afghanistan,” Sultan told The Associated Press.
The bodies of 20 men killed in the attack were lined up in a field near the madrassa, in Chingai village near Khar, the main town in the Bajur tribal district, before an impromptu burial attended by thousands of local people, according to an Associated Press reporter at the scene.
Pakistani tribesmen offer prayers during a funeral of alleged militants, who died in the Pakistani military attack, Monday, Oct. 30, 2006 in Chingai village near Khar, the main town Bajur, Pakistani tribal area along Afghan Border. Pakistani troops backed by missile-firing helicopters killed an estimated 80 militants when they destroyed a purported al-Qaida-linked training facility near the Afghan border, the military said.
Bill Roggio has more of the story: Airstrikes on Bajaur Training Camps
It is not believed any major al-Qaeda figures were present at the time of the strike. A good sign of this will be if any Uzbeks or Chechens are reported killed, as these two groups have deep roots in the Taliban and al-Qaeda in the region. Liaquat Hussain, the person that ran the madrassa, was believed to have been killed. And the ubiquitous Faqir Mohammed, who hosted the January Taliban and al-Qaeda leadership dinner party in Damadola, is also believed to have been inside the mosque during the strike. His death has not been confirmed. The custom of immediately burying the dead in unmarked graves makes it difficult to quickly identify those killed. The recent confirmation of the death of Muhsin Musa Matwalli Atwah highlights this problem. He was killed in a similar strike in Danda Saidgai in North Waziristan in April of 2006, and was only positively identified at the end of October.
While the Pakistanis are taking credit for this strike, the question arises as to whether this may have been conducted by Task Force 145, the U.S. special operations terrorist hunter-killer teams. Task Force 145 was responsible for the April raid in Danda Saidgai on the al-Qaeda’s training camp for Osama bin Laden’s Black Guard, his elite praetorian guard. Pakistan initially took credit for the Danda Saidgai strikes, but the Washington Post later revealed this was indeed a U.S. mission. Dawn notes the raid occurred â€œat around 5:00 am,â€ which means it was conducted in the dark, which means the Pakistani helicopter pilots would need night training in flight and targeting.
And the rationale for the attacks:
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shakut Aziz (L) escorts Britain’s Prince Charles during welcome ceremony at the Prime Minister’s house in Islamabad October 30, 2006. Prince Charles and his wife Camilla thanked Pakistan for efforts to counter terrorism on Monday at the start of a visit aimed at fostering goodwill in a country where most of Britain’s Muslims have family.
Unfortunatley it seems that this attack may be window dressing for the Brits while Prince Charles is in country such as it was the previous time when President Bush was in Pakistan. So will Pakistan keep up the operations on Al Qaeda and the Taliban?
Well, if Pakistan doesn’t then America and NATO WILL.
The Pakistanis have a knack for delivering a high level al-Qaeda leader or conducting a high profile strike when the need arises. The strike on Danda Saidgai occurred just as President Bush visited Pakistan and less than a week after the bombing of the Karachi Consulate that killed a U.S. diplomat. Britain’s Prince Charles, the future King of England, is currently in Pakistan, country. The NATO commander in Afghanistan, General James Jones, has just visited Pakistan and stated “the movements [of Taliban and al-Qaeda] across the border have increased since the signing of agreements on the other side of the border,” referring to the Wazristan Accord.
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