Published February 11, 2006
PESHAWAR, Pakistan – Pakistan's president said Saturday that an American missile attack last month killed a close relative of Al Qaeda's No. 2 leader and a terror suspect sought by the United States.
It was the first time that Gen. Pervez Musharraf has provided details about the terror suspects killed in the strike. Until now, he has only said that "foreigners" had died.
"Five foreigners were killed in the U.S. attack in Bajur. One of them was a close relative of Ayman al-Zawahiri and the other man was wanted by the U.S. and had a $5 million reward on his head," Musharraf told a gathering of tribal elders at the residence of the interior minister in the northwestern city of Charsada.
Musharraf did not offer the names of the two militants killed in the Jan. 13 attack, which officials also said killed about a dozen civilians, including women and children.
But Pakistani intelligence officials have told The Associated Press that they were Midhat Mursi al-Sayid Umar and Abdul Rehman al-Maghribi.
Al-Maghribi was a Moroccan and relative of al-Zawahiri, possibly his son-in-law.
Umar, 52, an Egyptian, has been described by the Justice Department as an explosives expert and poisons instructor.
The strike in the remote northwestern town near the Afghan border sparked massive protests in Pakistan.
Musharraf said al-Zawahiri, Usama bin Laden's personal physician and top adviser, had been expected to be in the town, where the suspects were meeting for a dinner. But Pakistani officials have said al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian, skipped the event and instead sent his deputies.
Umar is suspected of having trained hundreds of mujahedeen, or Islamist fighters, at a terrorist camp in Afghanistan near the eastern city of Jalalabad before the hard-line Taliban regime was ousted in late 2001.
Pakistani officials have said the bodies of the five foreigners were taken away by their associates and buried at an undisclosed location. So far, authorities have not been able to find the graves, and Musharraf did not say how he knew two of their identities.
Details of the attack remain sketchy: it was reportedly carried out by unmanned Predator drones flying from Afghanistan and Pakistan has maintained it wasn't given advance word of the airstrike.
Many Pakistanis were furious because they saw the attack as a violation of the nation's sovereignty. Pakistan's Foreign Ministry lodged a protest with the United States.
Musharraf also defended his country's role in the war on terrorism.
"We are supporting the international community in the war against terrorism in our own interests," he said.
"We are not doing it just to appease Americans," he added. "We are pursuing a campaign against terrorism because it is against our own safety."
Other terror suspects believed to have died in the Jan. 13 strike are:
— Abu Obaidah al-Masri, an Al Qaeda chief, responsible for attacks on U.S. forces in eastern Afghanistan, who was based in the Afghan province of Kunar.
— Khalid Habib, an Al Qaeda operations chief on the Afghan-Pakistan border.
The identity of the fifth alleged militant has not been made public.
Pakistani officials have said that the Al Qaeda men had gathered in Bajur to plan a wave of summer attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Al-Zawahiri threatened a new attack against the United States in a video released 17 days after the attacks.