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Al-Qaeda operatives roaming in Pak: Officials

Ayman al-Zawahri, the apparent target of the January 13 US attack, met Abu Farraj al-Libbi in Damadola.

india Updated: Jan 21, 2006 12:10 IST
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Al-Qaeda's second-in-command met his deputy last year at the same home hit by a US missile attack believed to have killed at least four of the terror network's operatives, Pakistani intelligence officials said onSaturday.

Ayman al-Zawahri, the apparent target of the January 13 US attack, met Abu Farraj al-Libbi in Damadola last year, a security official said on condition of anonymity.

Al-Libbi, a Libyan, had confessed to Pakistani interrogators after his capture in May 2005 he met al-Zawahri at Damadola, near the Afghan border, in early 2005.

Al-Libbi was nabbed after a shootout in another remote hamlet in northwestern Pakistan. Abu Farraj al-Libbi, the apparent target of the US attack January 13, had confessed to Pakistani interrogators after his capture in May 2005 that he met, a Libyan, in the northwestern town of Damadola near the Afghan border last year, a security official said. Al-Libbi was nabbed after a shootout in another remote hamlet in northwestern Pakistan.

Another high-ranking intelligence official confirmed al-Libbi's account of the meeting, which allegedly took place a few months before his arrest.

"His statement was later verified, and we were able to confirm that al-Zawahri visited Damadola," the first official said. "We have intelligence reports that Ayman al-Zawahri visited the house of one Bakhtpur Khan months before what happened last week," he added.

Khan's house was among three destroyed in the pre-dawn January 13 airstrike, and is listed among the 13 villagers who died. The attack has caused widespread anger in Pakistan. US and Pakistani intelligence-- helped by area tribesmen and other Afghans-- began monitoring Khan's home after the al-Libbi confession, the officials said.

Pakistani authorities suspect al-Qaeda operatives had gathered last week at Damadola to plan attacks early this year in Afghanistan and Pakistan, when the meeting was torn apart by US missiles, another intelligence official said.

The officials, all speaking on condition of anonymity due to the issue's sensitivity, believe at least four foreign militants also may have died, including al-Qaeda explosives and chemical weapons expert Midhat Mursi and a son-in-law of al-Zawahri.

However, Pakistani and US officials have reportedly said that the Egyptian-born al-Zawahri had skipped the meeting, and was not killed.