ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Intercepted radio conversations indicate Al Qaeda's (search) top intelligence chief may have been killed in fighting in Pakistan, intelligence officials said Monday, but they admitted that no body has been found.
The radio transmissions disclosed that a man named Abdullah had been killed and that the death caused a great deal of distress among the Al Qaeda forces, a Pakistani intelligence official said on condition of anonymity.
"He was a very important person for Al Qaeda," the official said. He added that interrogations of suspected Al Qaeda members led the Pakistanis to believe that Abdullah was the group's top intelligence official.
Pakistan's sweep through western tribal areas to root out suspected terrorists resulted in the deaths of 63 suspected militants dead and the arrest of 167 more, army spokesman Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan said Monday.
Another member of Pakistani intelligence said the military was showing photos of Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah (search) to captured militants, but none had identified the photo. He said all information was also being shared with U.S. intelligence agencies.
A U.S. intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States doesn't know if Abdullah was slain. "We do not have any confirmation on it," the official said. The Al Qaeda leader is on the FBI's Most Wanted List.
Without a body — and after earlier speculation that Al Qaeda's No. 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri (search) was cornered — the officials were cautious about any conclusions, since many Al Qaeda leaders use aliases.
Abdullah, who holds an Egyptian passport, was indicted for his alleged involvement in the Aug. 7, 1998, bombings of the U.S. embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya, that killed 231 people, including 12 Americans. He is on the FBI list of Most Wanted Terrorists and was known to have fled to Pakistan after the 1998 bombings.
Sultan said the army had confirmed Abdullah's death through "independent intelligence sources" but would not say whether it had his body. Abdullah is an extremely common name in the Islamic world, and it was impossible to know which of many Al Qaeda and other terror suspects Sultan might be referring to.
The military declared the operation in South Waziristan (search) over on Sunday, and claimed it was a success. But hundreds of other militants were still at large, officials said. Uzbek terrorist leader Tahir Yuldash was reportedly wounded in the assault but escaped.
There were 73 foreigners among the 167 arrested. Sultan did not identify their nationalities, but security officials had said Uzbeks, Chechens and Arabs were among them.
Sultan said 46 troops were killed and 26 wounded.
Villagers have begun returning to their homes after seeking shelter in Wana and other villages during the operation, when thousands of Pakistani forces battled hundreds of foreign and local militants.
Some angry tribesmen demanded compensation Monday for property they said was damaged and looted in the operation, Pakistan's biggest and bloodiest to flush out Al Qaeda fugitives.
"I do not know whose rocket hit my house. I do not know who looted my home during the military operation, but I think the government is responsible for it," said Mohammed Alam, 43, a resident in the Azam Warsak area, which was a focus of the military operation.
Sultan said troops had demolished the homes only of tribesmen who sheltered terrorists, but conceded that some other houses could have come under attack. He denied claims of looting.
While Pakistani troops have withdrawn from the target area of the operation, they have not pulled out of South Waziristan. Sultan said some of the militants had "dispersed into smaller groups" and they would not be allowed to regroup.
President Gen. Pervez Musharraf (search), a key U.S. ally, has sent 70,000 troops to the border with Afghanistan since the Sept. 11 attacks to prevent cross-border attacks.
U.S. and Afghan forces have been deployed on the other side of the border as part of an offensive against Al Qaeda and Taliban (search) forces there.