Al Qaeda No.2 may have been killed: US media
December 31, 2006 11:42am CST
(AFP)] Al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri may have been killed in a US strike on a Pakistani village which left 18 dead, US media reported. ABC television quoted Pakistani military sources as saying five of those killed were "high level Al-Qaeda figures" whose bodies are undergoing forensic tests for identification. They said Osama bin Laden's deputy, who has been known to stay at houses in the village, may have been one of the victims. Citing US defense sources, NBC television said the strike targeted Zawahiri, who has been indicted in the United States for his role in 1998 attacks on US embassies in Africa. NBC quoted Pakistani sources as saying the strikes were probably carried out by CIA Predator drones which fired up to 10 missiles in the village in the tribal zones of eastern Pakistan. A CIA spokesman in Washington declined to comment on the reports. The strike targeted a village which the reports said were a known hideout of Zawahiri and other Al-Qaeda figures. Residents in the village of Mamund reported the attack earlier and said 18 people had been killed. But the US Defense Department denied that the US military had carried out any attacks in the area. "There is no reason to believe the US military is conducting operations there," said Lieutenant Colonel Todd Vician. But the CIA is also known to conduct operations along the Pakistan- Afghanistan border in the hunt for bin Laden and his deputies. According to ABC, Zawahiri has been known to hide out in the village over the past 12 months. A medical doctor, Zawahiri has become Al-Qaeda's most senior spokesman in videos released in recent months as bin Laden has kept a low profile. He appeared in a new video released last week, leading some to believe that he has become the group's effective leader. At least 18 people, including women and children, died as missiles struck the village of Mamund in Pakistan's northeastern Bajur tribal region bordering Afghanistan, residents said earlier. Villagers said the missiles destroyed three houses, leaving five women, five children and eight men dead. NBC said the toll in the village could reach 30 people. One of the houses destroyed in the attack belonged to Gul Zaman, a member of an outlawed Islamic extremist group, villagers said. Bajur borders Afghanistan's troubled Kunar province, where suspected Taliban rebels shot down a Chinook helicopter killing 16 US servicemen in June last year. Pakistan has pushed around 70,000 soldiers into the tribal areas to flush out Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters who fled Afghanistan after the US-led invasion in late 2001. The United States has been offering a 25 million dollar reward for Zawahiri since the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.