WASHINGTON – President Bush's national security adviser refused on Sunday to confirm that a top Al Qaeda leader was killed in Pakistan, contradicting statements by Pakistan's president and U.S. officials.
Pakistan's information minister said on Saturday that Hamza Rabia's remains were identified in DNA tests and that the key associate of Al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri had died Thursday in a rocket attack near the Afghan border. Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, also said Rabia was killed — "Yes, indeed, 200 percent confirmed."
In addition, two U.S. counterterrorism officials in Washington, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because of the information's sensitivity, confirmed Rabia's death but would not elaborate on the circumstances.
But Stephen Hadley, the president's national security adviser, declined to confirm on Sunday that Rabia was dead or that the missile attack was carried by a pilotless U.S. plane.
"At this point we are not in a position publicly to confirm that he is dead. But if he is, that is a good thing for the War on Terror," Hadley told "FOX News Sunday."
Hadley described Rabia as "a bad guy" who had become the head of operations for Al Qaeda after the capture of the terrorist network's former operations chief, Abu Faraj al-Libbi.
Rabia was involved in planning for two assassination plots against Musharraf and "we believe he was involved in planning for attacks against the United States," Hadley said.
Asked about reports that a U.S. drone had launched the missile attack that killed Rabia, Hadley said only that the United States has helped Musharraf by providing intelligence and cooperating with Pakistani forces.
Pakistani intelligence officials said U.S. assistance played a critical role in tracking down Rabia and "eliminating the threat" that he posed.