A US drone strike hit Bannu District in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province today, killing six suspected militants. Bannu District borders both North and South Waziristan, the usual site of US missile attacks, but the strike was farther from the Afghan border than US drones generally stray for their attacks.
Among those reported killed was Abdullah Azzam al-Saudi, who is described in media accounts as a “senior member” of al-Qaeda or a “major operative.” Nothing else is known about al-Saudi, and there appears to be no prior mention of him in any reports before his apparent death today.
Qazi Hussain Ahmed, the chief of Pakistan’s Jamaat-e Islami (JI), condemned the US strike, and cautioned that “if these missile attacks continue, then we will ask the people to create hurdles in the way of supplies for NATO.” JI is Pakistan’s oldest religious party, and has remained an influential opposition party despite boycotting the most recent election over then-President Pervez Musharraf’s state of emergency.
By far the largest and most important supply route into Afghanistan is through Pakistan’s Khyber Agency. The pass has been beset by a growing number of hijackings in recent days and the Pakistani government has had to close it on more than one occasion due to security concerns. US officials have been searching diligently for an alternate route, potentially an overland route across Europe into northern Afghanistan. Such a route seems enormously inconvenient, but if Pakistan becomes closed to them, there don’t appear to be any other better alternatives.