January 15, 2006

Sheltering Guise

From FoxNews: Pakistanis Protest U.S. Airstrike.

Al Qaeda's No. 2 leader was invited to dinner marking an Islamic holiday at the Pakistani border village struck by a purported CIA airstrike, but he did not show up, intelligence officials said Sunday, as Islamic groups demonstrated across the country in protest of the 17 people killed in the missile strike.

The two Pakistani officials told The Associated Press that this could explain why Friday's predawn attack missed its apparent target, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Usama bin Laden's top lieutenant.

Al-Zawahiri sent some aides to the dinner instead and investigators were trying to determine whether they had been in any of the three houses that were destroyed in the missile strike that killed at least 17 people, one of the officials said.

The new details emerged as Islamic groups held nationwide protests and anger mounted over the attack that Pakistan says killed innocent civilians while al-Zawahiri as not even there. ...

In a speech shown Sunday on state-run Pakistan Television, President Gen. Pervez Musharraf did not address the Damadola strike directly, but he warned his countrymen not to harbor militants, saying it would only increase violence inside Pakistan.

"If we keep sheltering foreign terrorists here ... our future will not be good. Remember what I say," Musharraf said in the speech, which was made Saturday in the northwestern town of Sawabi.

Survivors in Damadola denied militants were there, but some news reports quoted unidentified Pakistani officials as saying up to 11 extremists were believed among the dead.

UPDATE -- Jan. 17: From CNN: Source: Egyptians killed in strike; Clerics 'had invited 10 to 12 foreign militants to dinner'.

Some of the foreigners killed in last Friday's U.S. airstrike in the remote Pakistani village of Damadola were of Egyptian origin, according to a knowledgeable source.

U.S. officials have said "very solid" intelligence indicated that senior al Qaeda members were expected to attend a dinner celebrating the end of the Muslim holiday of Eid and that Osama Bin Laden's top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, could very well be among them.

Although these officials believe a number of "significant" al Qaeda figures were killed in the attack, there is no evidence so far that al-Zawahiri was among them. Pakistani officials have said he apparently was not there.

Posted by Forkum at January 15, 2006 03:58 PM