PESHAWAR, Pakistan, AP – A U.S. missile strike on a Pakistani village last month killed a relative of al-Qaida’s No. 2 leader and a terror suspect wanted by America, Pakistan’s leader said Saturday, breaking weeks of silence about the identities of the men.
The nighttime attack — which also killed a dozen residents, including women and children — outraged Pakistanis, who complained it violated the nation’s sovereignty.
Until now, President Gen. Pervez Musharraf had only said “foreigners” died in the Jan. 13 strike in the northwestern town of Bajur, near the Afghan border. But he provided more details Saturday while visiting northwestern Pakistan, though he did not name the dead terror suspects.
“Five foreigners were killed in the U.S. attack in Bajur,” Musharraf told tribal elders in the city of Charsada. “One of them was a close relative of Ayman al-Zawahri and the other man was wanted by the U.S. and had a $5 million reward on his head.”
The Pakistani president added that al-Zawahri — al-Qaida’s No. 2 leader — was also expected to be in the town, where the suspects were meeting for a dinner. But Pakistani officials have said al-Zawahri skipped the event and instead sent his deputies.
Al-Zawahri, an Egyptian, is Osama bin Laden’s personal physician and top adviser. Both are believed to be hiding in the mountainous border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Pakistani intelligence officials have told The Associated Press that the two men were Midhat Mursi al-Sayid Umar and Abdul Rehman al-Maghribi.
Al-Maghribi was a Moroccan and relative of al-Zawahri, possibly his son-in-law.
Umar, 52, an Egyptian, has been cited by the U.S. Justice Department as an explosives expert and poisons instructor. He is suspected of training hundreds of mujahedeen, or holy warriors, at a terrorist camp in Afghanistan before the ouster of the hard-line Taliban regime in late 2001.
Musharraf did not say how he knew that the two men died in the attack.
Pakistani officials have said that sympathizers buried the five bodies at an undisclosed location that authorities have been unable to find.
The Americans and Pakistanis have provided little information about the attack. Unmanned Predator drones flying from Afghanistan reportedly fired the missiles.
Pakistan has maintained it was not given advance word of the airstrike, and the Foreign Ministry lodged a protest with the U.S.
Musharraf on Saturday defended his country’s role in the U.S.-led war on terrorism.
“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 were Abu Obaidah al-Masri, the al-Qaida chief responsible for attacks on U.S. forces in eastern Afghanistan; and Khalid Habib, an al-Qaida operations chief along the Afghan-Pakistan border. It was not clear who the fifth person was.
The men were gathering in Bajur to plan a new wave attacks this summer in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Pakistani officials have said.