Friday, March 14, 2008

Another US airstrike in Pakistan

Haqqani network targeted. Pakistan government advised prior to the mission.

The US-led coalition in Afghanistan on Thursday said it had launched a "precision-guided" strike on a militant compound in Pakistan, after Pakistan’s army said four civilians were killed by US fire.

Pakistan, which forbids all foreign military activity on its soil, said it had lodged a "very strong protest" after two women and two children were killed by stray US shells in the North Waziristan tribal region on Wednesday.

A Kabul-based spokesperson for the coalition, which led the toppling of the Taliban regime in late 2001, said it could not comment directly on the Pakistani account but confirmed it had launched a strike.

"We can confirm a precision-guided ammunition strike on March 12 on a compound connected with Haqqani network 1,5km across the border in Pakistan," coalition spokesperson Major Chris Belcher said.

The Haqqani network refers to militants led by Taliban commander Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is allegedly based in Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan.

"I do not have any information on any casualties that may have occurred," the spokesperson said.

Belcher said, "The information I have is that the government of Pakistan was notified immediately following the strike."

"It is not the first time that they (coalition forces) have had to respond to an imminent threat across the border in Pakistan. Every time we do, we clear that with Pakistani authorities."

The Long War Journal has this 4-1-1 on the operation

At 9:40 PM local time, US officials declared the group posed an imminent threat to forces inside Afghanistan and the call to strike the compound was made. After the orders were given to launch a coordinated strike, fixed-wing and rotary-wing air support along with Predator surveillance and reconnaissance began scanning likely insurgent attack positions inside Afghanistan. US military officials confirmed no women or children had been seen in the targeted North Waziristan compound or in any structures near it over the last five days.

Nearly four hours later, a salvo of indirect fire targeting the compound hit its mark, completely obliterating the building and killing an unknown number of people inside of it. Several insurgents working sentry posts around the compound were observed by aerial surveillance leaving the area on foot. Initial intelligence reports on March 12 indicated three “high-level Haqqani network commanders” were killed and that “many” Chechen fighters also died in the blast.

"sentries observed leaving the area on foot..."

Ha-ha. I bet they were sure beating the feet to get out there, too!