Security officials have confirmed that the leader of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) Supreme Shura and ‘master trainer’ of suicide bombers as well as dozens of foreign fighters were amongst those killed in air strikes in North Waziristan Agency (NWA) on Monday night.
A senior security official told The Express Tribune on Wednesday that most of those killed in the offensive were foreign fighters including 33 Uzbeks and 3 Germans. The strikes, a response to attacks in Bannu and Rawalpindi, also led to the deaths of senior TTP commanders including the head of the Supreme Shura Asmat Shaheen Bittani and Wali Mohammad, successor to the group’s leader Qari Hussain, known as a key trainer of suicide bombers.
Bittani also briefly led the TTP as its interim chief following the killing of Hakimullah Mehsud in a US drone strike in November last year. Security officials also claimed to have eliminated Maulvi Farhad Uzbek, who was believed to be the head of al Qaeda-linked foreign fighters in the tribal region. Farhad was successor to Qari Tahir Yeldashive, leader of al Qaeda-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, who was killed in a drone strike in 2009. If official reports are to be believed, the strikes were a major setback to the TTP.
The air offensive targeted hideouts in Mir Ali and Miranshah and were the first in recent years, coming ahead of calls for the government to act decisively against the TTP and its affiliates.
Minister for Defense Production Rana Tanveer said the strikes were not a prelude to a military offensive. He said fighter jets bombed the militant hideouts in retaliation to the recent attacks in Bannu and Rawalpindi.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 23rd, 2014.