(CNSNews.com) – A Pakistani terrorist killed by a U.S. missile fired from a drone over Afghanistan last week was blamed for attacks including a bombing during the George W. Bush administration that killed at least 53 people, including a U.S. sailor and airman.
Those killed when terrorists linked to al-Qaeda and its Pakistani ally, Tehrik-e Taliban (TPP), detonated a truck bomb at the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad on Sept. 20, 2008 included Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew O’Bryant, 22, of Duluth, Ga., a U.S. Navy cryptologist assigned to the Navy Information Operations Command at Fort Meade, Md.
Exactly what O’Bryant was doing in the hotel at the time has not been made public, but when his name was later inscribed on a memorial wall honoring those who “gave their lives, ‘serving in silence,’ in the line of duty,” the National Security Agency said he had been killed “while performing a cryptologic mission in Pakistan.”
“In peacetime, military cryptologists routinely perform their vital work in safe, secure surroundings,” the NSA said in a tribute to him. “However, in times of war and armed conflict, cryptologists, and those who support their efforts, must carry out their work on the front lines.”
“It was in the performance of these critical duties that Petty Officer O’Bryant lost his life.”
Also killed in the Marriott that night was U.S. Air Force Major Rodolfo Ivan Rodriguez, 34, of El Paso, Texas, who had been assigned to the 86th Construction and Training Squadron at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
Rodriguez, a civil engineering officer, was in Islamabad to train the Pakistani military, according to earlier reports.
Both O’Bryant and Rodriguez were described by the Department of Defense at the time to have been serving in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, the mission launched after al-Qaeda attacked the U.S. in September 2001.
Others killed in the 2008 terror attack, which saw the hotel engulfed in flames, included 46 Pakistanis and five other foreigners, among them the Czech Republic’s newly-arrived ambassador to Pakistan.
On Saturday, the Pentagon announced that a U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan’s Paktika province last Sunday had killed Pakistani terrorist Qari Yasin, wanted in connection with plotting the Marriott bombing.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in a brief statement that his death “is evidence that terrorists who defame Islam and deliberately target innocent people will not escape justice.”
The Pentagon described Yasin as “a well-known al-Qaeda terrorist leader” from Balochistan, who had ties to the TTP and had plotted multiple al-Qaeda terror attacks.
Apart from the Marriott bombing, it said, he had been behind an attack in March 2009 on a bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore. Six Pakistani policemen and two civilians were killed. The cricketers escaped death, although six sustained injuries.
At the time, that attack was blamed on Lashkar-e Jhangvi, an al-Qaeda-associated extremist group better known for attacks on Shi’a and other sectarian minorities.
Pakistani media reports linked Yasin to other attacks that year as well, including an October attack by gunmen on the Pakistani military headquarters in Rawalpindi, which cost the lives of nine soldiers and two civilians; and a bomb and shooting attack in May on the Lahore office of the Inter-Service Intelligence agency, in which at least 30 people, including four ISI operatives and 14 policemen, were killed.
They said he was subject to a Pakistani reward offer of two million rupees (about $19,100).
Pakistan’s government has for years publicly criticized U.S. drone strikes targeting terrorists in the tribal belt along the Pakistan-Afghan border, characterizing them as breaches of its sovereignty that merely encourage further militancy.
In this instance, where the attack occurred inside Afghan territory, Pakistan’s government has been silent on the operation.
The major attacks linked to Yasin occurred during a particularly deadly period in Pakistan, when terrorism blamed on al-Qaeda was largely eclipsed by a violent campaign waged by the newly-established TTP, also known as the Pakistani Taliban, which carried out hundreds of suicide attacks at the cost of thousands of lives.
According to data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), a project of the New Delhi-based Institute for Conflict Management, 2,155 civilians and 654 security force members were killed by terrorists in 2008, and 2,324 civilians and 991 security force members in 2009.
The numbers have dropped substantially since the Pakistani military launched an offensive in 2014 in the North Waziristan tribal area adjacent to Afghanistan.
SATP terror fatality figures have recorded a drop from 1,781 civilians and 533 security force members in 2014, to 940/339 in 2015, and to 612/293 in 2016. So far this year, 153 civilians and 47 security force personnel have been killed in terror attacks.