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Zawahiri escaped raid, relative killed: Musharraf

A relative of Al-Qaeda deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri was among five militants killed in a US air strike last month.

india Updated: Feb 11, 2006 21:51 IST
Rana Jawad (AFP)
Rana Jawad (AFP)

A close relative of Al-Qaeda deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri was among five militants killed in a US air strike last month, but Zawahiri himself escaped, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf said on Saturday.

Security officials said military ruler Musharraf was referring to Abdur Rehman al-Maghribi, Zawahiri's son-in-law and the head of Al-Qaeda's media operations.

The January 13 attack on Damadola, a remote village in the Bajur tribal agency bordering Afghanistan, sparked protests in Pakistan after residents and officials said up to 18 civilians were also killed.

"Among the people who were killed in Bajur, one of them was a close relative of Zawahiri," Musharraf was quoted as saying by his spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan.

"Zawahiri's son in law was killed in the Bajur strike," a security official said on condition of anonymity.

Musharraf added that one of the dead was an "important person" with a $5 million bounty on his head, however Sultan said it was not clear if the president was talking about Zawahiri's relative or another person.

Egyptian Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's lieutenant and chief ideologue of the Al-Qaeda terror network, was due at a house in the village on the day of the air strike but he failed to show, Musharraf added.

"Zawahiri was also supposed to be there but he did not come," spokesman Sultan quoted Musharraf as telling media in northwest Pakistan.

Musaharraf went to the town of Charsada to offer his condolences to the family of veteran Pashtun leader, Abdul Wali Khan, who died recently.

Officials said shortly after the strike that it was thought to have killed al-Maghribi and Midhat Mursi, 52, also known as Abu Khabab al-Masri, a top Al-Qaeda bombmaker with a $5 million reward on his head.

Security sources say the air raid was carried out by a US Central Intelligence Agency Predator drone, but Washington has not officially acknowledged that it launched the attack.

Islamabad has previously said it did not give permission for the strike and the Pakistani government lodged an official protest with the United States after it.

The raid also triggered nationwide protests, strong condemnation by the government and calls for the expulsion of the US ambassador.

First Published: Feb 11, 2006 21:51 IST