I just spoke with a military intelligence source who confirmed that the Bajur airstrike (see Andy Cochran’s post on it) was conducted by a U.S. Predator, adding that helicopters were also involved. The strike occurred around dawn, as people in the camp were preparing for their morning prayers. My source is skeptical of speculation that Zawahiri may have been killed in the strike, saying that Zawahiri sightings are a dime a dozen. He says it’s possible that Matiur Rehman was killed, but is also skeptical of that.
The strike came just as the Bajur accords were supposed to take place (similar to the Waziristan accords that now prevent Pakistan’s military from operating in that region). Officials within the Pakistani government were supposedly worried when early reports surfaced that Faqir Mohammed may have been killed. Faqir Mohammed is a Taliban leader in the region who would have been a major signatory to the accords: if he were killed, the Pakistanis wouldn’t know who could enter into the accords with them (or, to put it cynically, with Faqir Mohammed dead they wouldn’t know who they were supposed to surrender to). However, Mohammed survived. He apparently felt so confident in his safety that he gave an interview to NBC News at the scene near the blasted school, and also attended — and spoke at — the funeral for the 80 who died in the strike.
At this point, the Bajur Accords are on hold. While we will probably see some payback from al-Qaeda and the Taliban, my source noted that there’s not a whole lot more they can do: these groups tried to kill Musharraf less than a month ago, and are already carrying out terrorist attacks in Pakistan.
It’s worth noting that Faqir Mohammed also hosted Zarqawi when a U.S. strike missed him back in January, and left before that strike as well. It’s unlikley that Mohammed had advance warning of either the Damadola strike or this one (too many high-value terrorists were killed at Damadola, and Mohammed almost certainly would have alerted them). Some guys are apparently just that lucky.
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