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January 18, 2006
Pakistanis Concede Terrorists Among Damadola Dead

The Pakistanis now concede that despite its initial denials, the airstrike on the house in Damadola from unmanned CIA drones killed a number of AQ terrorists that had come to dinner in the village of Damadola. At first they insisted that the dead comprised nothing but local civilians, but yesterday changed their claim:

The provincial government said Tuesday that in addition to 18 civilians, four or five foreign militants were killed by the American airstrikes on the village of Damadola on Friday, but that their bodies were removed from the scene by companions. In all, 10 to 12 militants had been invited to a dinner in the village that night, it said.

The findings, the first official statement that militants had been among those killed, were from a preliminary joint investigation at the scene by government agencies.

The initial investigation found the attack was "directed against some foreign terrorists who were present in the area at the time of occurrence," the statement said, quoting Fahim Wazir, the political administrator of the Bajaur region, where the attacks took place.

The bodies of the "foreigners", as the Pakistanis call AQ terrorists, got pulled out and transported away quickly by others of their party to escape identification, the Pakistani government now says. That indicates two very clear results from this raid:

1. Its success; the intel proved correct even if Zawahiri failed to show for the dinner.
2. The high level of the people who were killed.

The only reason to take five bodies out of the wreckage before getting out is that the identities of those five bodies would make a difference to the efforts of al-Qaeda. Otherwise, why bother with the high risk of remaining in a targeted zone to retrieve dead bodies and transport them out of Damadola while leaving other bodies behind? If one Predator had dropped a few missiles, others might soon have come along to scout the mission and finish off anyone left scurrying around the blast site -- and yet the survivors made a point of taking the bodies with them. The only reason for taking that kind of chance would be to keep the West from knowing exactly who died, and that would only make sense if they knew that the West knew the identity and rank of the dead.

Does that mean that Zawahiri could have been one of the five? It's still possible; it's been a few days, and we still haven't heard from Zawahiri. We probably took out a good chunk of Zawahiri's staff at the least, making it much more difficult for the terror network's #2 to communicate through normal AQ channels. The damage done to AQ at Damadola could be enormous.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at January 18, 2006 6:44 AM

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