Reports yesterday stated that the US launched a missile strike against a “high-value” terrorist target in Pakistan on Tuesday, but had not confirmed any success. Today, Reuters reports that secondary data indicates the missile hit a safe house of foreign fighters, but no confirmation has been issued as to whether the intended target got hit:
A suspected U.S. missile strike that killed up to 13 foreign militants in Pakistan’s North Waziristan region this week had targeted second or third tier al Qaeda leaders, according to residents in the tribal area. …
Intelligence officials said the area is controlled by Islamist militants and too dangerous for security forces to go. After the attack, militants surrounded the area and barred anyone from going near the house.
Ahmed Aziz, a 70-year-old resident, told Reuters that the militants also stopped villagers from attending the funerals, which was a sign that those killed were all foreigners.
“When local people die, they don’t stop anyone from attending their funerals,” Aziz said.
Sources now say that the targets were Abu Laith al Libi and Obaidah al Masri and/or their deputies. Intelligence services apparently tracked their movements and expected them to be in the house. Since security forces apparently cannot go to the site, they cannot confirm their deaths. However, the fact that terrorist forces sealed off the area and prevented locals from attending the funerals indicate not just that the dead were foreign fighters, but perhaps that they had more import than just hired muscle.
Intel will have to glean the identities of the dead through intercepts. The attack serves notice on the terrorists holed up in Waziristan and elsewhere in Pakistan that the US can reach across the border at will and make our presence felt in deadly ways. That will have the Taliban and AQ rethinking security plans, which may give us even more opportunities.
For those who had hoped to hear that Osama had gone to his 72 virgins, this news may not be terribly interesting. The war on terror, though, will get won through many actions such as this.