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January 14, 2006
AQ #2 Not Residue, Locals Say

The AP reports that two senior Pakistani officials now say that the people killed in the missile attack on Damadola were locals, not AQ leadership, and that the attack resulted from mistaken intel. The forensics on the bodies that were retrieved have not yet been completed, but the locals claim that the dead were a family of jewelers and not AQ terrorists:

Al-Qaida's second-in-command was the target of a U.S. airstrike near the Afghan border but he was not at the site of the attack, two senior Pakistani officials said Saturday. At least 17 people were killed. ...

The senior Pakistani officials told The Associated Press on Saturday that the CIA had acted on incorrect information, and Ayman al-Zawahri was not in the northwestern village of Damadola when it came under attack. Al-Zawahri is ranked No. 2 in the al-Qaida terror network, second only to Osama bin Laden.

"Their information was wrong, and our investigations conclude that they acted on a false information," said a senior intelligence official who has direct knowledge of the investigations launched by Pakistan to look into the attacks. His account was confirmed by a senior government official, who said al-Zawahri "was not there."

Pakistan's government was expected to formally issue its reaction later Saturday.

An AP reporter who visited the scene in Damadola village about 12 hours later saw three destroyed houses, hundreds of yards apart. Villagers recounted hearing aircraft overhead moments before the attack. By their count at least 30 people died, including women and children.

Attacks using unmanned Predators have a higher risk of going wrong, and the US would prefer to capture targets like Zawahiri alive anyway. Pakistan, however, has not allowed the US to operate very freely in that area for some time now, although we have made it clear that we will take out AQ leadership wherever we think they might be. It's yet another reason why the WOT requires boots on the ground and traditional military operations as well as covert operations. Without having both, the intelligence needed for further operations gets more difficult to find and to confirm. In Iraq, for instance, our presence has allowed the Iraqis to finally understand that we will not leave while AQ remains -- and they remain highly motivated to pass along thousands of tips every month for us to track them down.

The forensic results should be announced by tomorrow on the bodies retrieved immediately after the attack. Hopefully they will prove to have been AQ leadership, especially Zawahiri or even Osama himself. If not, then the CIA has some explaining to do at the White House come Monday morning. However, we should not overreact to the miss or the missed intel (if that is what it proves to have been), nor should we let up in our pursuit of the leaders of the lunatics that conducted the 9/11 plot. This is war, and unfortunately war results in collateral deaths by mistaken targeting.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 14, 2006 6:12 AM

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» Zawahiri Not Dead - Again from Hyscience
Ayman al-Zawahri was not in the northwestern village of Damadola when it came under attack. [Read More]

Tracked on January 14, 2006 8:32 AM

» Details of U.S. Airstrikes Unclear; al-Zawahiri Probably Alive from Everything Between
I sincerely hope that the still unconfirmed worldwide reports that Ayman al-Zawahiri is a dead man following Friday’s airstrikes near the Afghanistan/Pakistan border are true. But just in case, I’ve decided to go out on a limb with this exc... [Read More]

Tracked on January 14, 2006 8:43 AM


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