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Al-Qaeda's No 2 may have survived

US intelligence earlier said Osama bin Laden's lieutenant Ayman al-Zawahiri may have died in Friday's missile raid.

world Updated: Jan 15, 2006 15:04 IST

It is not yet clear whether the deadly air strike aimed at Al-Qaeda's deputy leader, which killed 18 people, hit its target,

The Washington Post

reported on Sunday.

In Pakistan, officials said earlier indications from US intelligence sources that a key lieutenant of Osama bin Laden, possibly his number two Ayman al-Zawahiri, may have died in Friday's missile raid were "not true".

Yet "in Washington, US intelligence sources said it was too early to know whether the strike had killed Zawahiri, 54, an Egyptian physician who is al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's top aide," the Post said.

The paper quoted an unidentified source as saying: "The outcome of this doesn't seem decided."

In addition "US officials defended the strike, saying it was the right course of action based on timely intelligence about Zawahiri's whereabouts early on Friday. Zawahiri had been under surveillance by the CIA for two weeks, security sources said," according to the Post.

"US military sources said Pakistan's intelligence service had been heavily involved in the attack," the Post report said adding: "Senior Pakistani officials would not confirm involvement in the strike but acknowledged regular intelligence cooperation with the United States."

"The intelligence sharing is on an almost daily basis," the Post quoted a senior Pakistani intelligence official as saying. The official said the cooperation included sharing of both human and electronic intelligence sources, the Post said.

Pakistan's foreign ministry said it had summoned US Ambassador Ryan Crocker on Saturday and handed over a formal protest about the incident.

The US Defence Department denied that the US military had carried out any attacks in the area.

Pakistan forbids military operations by foreign forces in its territory.

But US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) sources said on Saturday they had unconfirmed indications that a key target, possibly bin Laden's Egyptian deputy and chief ideologue, died in a raid by a US Predator drone in Pakistan.

First Published: Jan 15, 2006 13:05 IST