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US drones are pounding Pakistan's North Waziristan. Here's why.

US drones have stepped up bombing raids to combat new alliances cropping up between disparate militants coming to Pakistan's North Waziristan region.

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With shoulder-length hair, and armed with Kalashnikovs and rockets, these young militants roam around in four-wheel-drive jeeps.

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“They are loud and short-tempered and fight among themselves. They show off, unlike Arabs who are generally quiet, maintain a low profile, and mostly use ordinary cars like us,” says Javed Wazir, a local tribesman.

The Arabs he refers to are highly trained Al Qaeda militants of Moroccan, Egyptian, Algerian, and Sudanese origin, operating under the command of Mustafa Abu-al-Yazid, also known as Sheikh Saidal Masri, who was killed in May this year in a drone attack. Now, Siraj Uddin Haqqani, the most powerful militant in Waziristan is believed to coordinating with these Al Qaeda militants.

Al Qaeda militant hideout

According to US estimates, there are about 2,000 Al Qaeda militants in the region. Their main hideouts, the prime target of US drones in the spring, are located in the mountains between Miramshah and the Afghan border. Additionally, there are Uzbeks, Chinese Uighurs, Chechens, and Tajik militants collaborating in North Waziristan.

It is estimated that around 3,000 Uzbeks (not to mention a number of militants belonging to other Central Asian states) have taken shelter in the region.

Since last year’s killing of Tahir Yledeshev, chief of the Uzbekistan Islamic Movement, there have been splinters, but Uzbeks mainly fight alongside TTP leaders.

There is also a group of hundreds of militants belonging to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a separatist extremist movement of Uighurs fighting against China for the independence of Xingjian Province. The commander, known as Abdul Shakoor, succeeded Abdul Haq al-Turkestani after he was killed in a drone attack early this year.

Intermarriages help

Tribesmen say they have attended at least two marriages of Uzbek commanders to local girls. Sources say that intermarriages between the foreign militants and tribal families indicate that the bonding has strengthened cross-recruitment and connections.

Once new militants are trained, they are sent to towns along the Pakistani-Afghan border to the camps of the Haqqanis and Mr. Bahadur before crossing into Afghanistan, using connections there.

“Pakistan’s resistance to go into North Waziristan stems from the fact that mostly, Pakistani militants are nestled under the banner of Siraj Haqqani and Gul Bahadur and Al Qaeda,” says Imtiaz Gul, author of the book “The Most Dangerous Place.”

“The apprehension is that if we [Pakistanis] launch [a] full-scale operation in North Waziristan, we will also face severe backlash in the cities,” he says.

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