Pakistan: U.S. Airstrike Can't Be Repeated

By MUNIR AHMAD

Associated Press

January 21, 2006

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan's president told a senior U.S. official on Saturday that the airstrike on a Pakistani village last week cannot be repeated, a foreign ministry official said.

Gen. Pervez Musharraf also assured U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns Pakistan would not waver in its support for Washington's war on terrorism, the foreign ministry official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record.

The comments were the first publicized reaction by Musharraf to the Jan. 13 attack on the village of Damadola that apparently targeted but missed Ayman al-Zawahi, al-Qaida's No. 2.

Musharraf met Burns at his office in Rawalpindi, a garrison city near the capital Islamabad.

The strike last week on three homes in the Bajur tribal region village is believed to have killed at least four of al-Zawahri's close associates and at least 13 civilians, including women and children. The village is close to the border with Afghanistan.

The official said Musharraf told Burns: "What happened in Bajur must not be repeated."

Pakistan is a key ally of the United States in its war on terrorism, but it has lodged a protest with the United States over the airstrikes that have angered many in this Islamic nation of 150 million.

Officials say Egyptian master bombmaker Midhat Mursi may be among the four al-Zawahri associates killed in the strike. Mursi has a $5 million bounty on his head and is on the FBI's list of most wanted terrorists.

The Pakistan and U.S. governments, however, have not confirmed the identity or nationality of any slain al-Qaida suspects.

Pakistan has only said four or five foreign terrorists were killed in the attack, and their bodies were taken away by their companions. Authorities here say they were looking for the graves of the dead militants.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz told reporters in New York on Friday that there was no "tangible evidence" that any extremists had gathered in Damadola.

On Saturday, two Pakistani intelligence officials told The Associated Press that the attack targeted one of the homes where al-Zawahri had met Abu Farraj al-Libbi, the then al-Qaida No. 3, last year.

Al-Libbi, who twice tried to assassinate Musharraf over Pakistan's alliance with the United States, was captured last May after a shootout in another remote hamlet in northwestern Pakistan. After his arrest in Pakistan, he was eventually turned over to Washington for further investigation.