An American Predator Drone; An Angry Pakistani Tribesman Holds a Koran Destroyed in U.S. Missile Attack.
Outrage in Pakistan After U.S. Drone Kills 18
In an attempt to take out Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's deputy, a missile attack by a U.S. drone on Friday killed 18 people, including women and children. Significantly, the intended targets were not killed. According to this article on the event from Pakistan's The Nation newspaper, protests have erupted in the area of the attack, and Pakistan's government has filed a formal protest with Washington.
By Shaiq Hussain
January 16, 2006
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Saturday summoned U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker to the Foreign Office here and lodged a strong protest with the United States against an air strike on a border village in Bajaur Agency that killed at least 18 people, including women and children. [Across from Afghanistan's restive province of Kunar].
Foreign Secretary Riaz Muhammad Khan handed over a formal protest to the U.S. ambassador this evening, Foreign Office Spokesperson Tasnim Aslam said.
"The incident in Bajaur Agency that took place yesterday is being thoroughly investigated. According to preliminary investigations there was foreign presence in the area and that in all probability was targeted from across the border in Afghanistan," the spokesperson maintained.
"As a result of this act there has been loss of innocent civilian lives which we condemn. The investigations are continuing," she said.
The spokesperson also said that the Foreign Office would take up this matter at the next meeting of the Tripartite Commission, made up of top Pakistan, American and Afghan security and diplomatic officials.
NO SIGN OF AL-ZAWAHIRI
"Our Armed Forces have undertaken large-scale operation against the foreign militants, and it remains our responsibility to protect our people and territory from outside intrusion," she said.
Pakistani officials also said Saturday that al-Qaeda deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was likely not killed in the air strike.
"Things are being investigated … let the investigation first be completed," he added.
Senior Pakistani government and intelligence officials said Zawahiri was thought not to have been in the area at the time of the air strike.
"As far as our investigations are concerned, reports about Zawahiri being killed in the attack are untrue," one top official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
"Our agencies have carried out initial ground checks and, combined with intelligence from the area, there is no indication of Zawahiri's presence in the area at the time of the incident or before."
Witnesses said that police used teargas to disperse protesters near the site of the missile attack, when a mob chanting anti-American slogans burned down a U.S.-funded aid agency office.
Rashid told a news conference that the government had "no information about Al-Zawahiri" following Friday's "highly condemnable" attack in Damadola, a village in the Bajur Tribal Agency.
Sheikh Rashid condemned the incident, without directly pointing a finger at the United States.
"We deeply regret that civilian lives have been lost during an incident in Bajur Agency," he said. "While this act is highly condemnable, we have long been striving to rid our tribal areas of foreign intruders, who are responsible for all the misery and violence. That situation must be brought to an end."
Rashid added that residents in the tribal regions were responsible for cooperating with the government to drive out foreign militants. But he also sought to calm nerves.
"At the same time, we want to assure the people that we will not allow such incidents reoccur," he added.
EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT; PROTESTS
Villagers in Damadola said that they heard aircraft or helicopters before three explosions rocked the village, and insisted that the only victims were local people.
"We were asleep when the first missile hit another house. We came out, but my three children were buried under debris in a second explosion," said Mohammed Khan, 35. His children all died.
"The US cannot do this without Pakistan's support. We are leaving it to God to give us justice."
In Khar, the main town in Bajur Agency and which is close to Damadola Village, an estimated 5,000 people gathered to protest the killings.
Some demonstrators set fire to the offices of Associated Development Construction, a non-governmental organization funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, an official at the aid group said.
Police later fired tear gas shells to disperse the mob, after the crowd headed toward a music and video cassette market, while security forces fired two shots in the air, an AFP reporter said.
Pakistan's biggest Islamist [pro-Al-Qaeda] party, Jamaat-e-Islami, [Home Page ] called for a nationwide strike on Sunday to protest the deaths.
American Central Intelligence Agency sources said earlier that they had unconfirmed indications that a key target, possibly Osama bin Laden's Egyptian number two and chief ideologue, died during a raid by a U.S. Predator drone in Pakistan.
Citing American defense sources, NBC television said the strike had targeted Zawahiri, 55. The Defense Department denied that the U.S. military had carried out an attack in the area. "There is no reason to believe the U.S. military is conducting operations there," said Lieutenant Colonel Todd Vician.
Pakistan forbids military operations on its territory by foreign forces, although the CIA is known to conduct operations along the Afghan border in the hunt for Osama bin Laden and his deputies.
American and Pakistani officials believe tribesmen may well have sheltered the al-Qaeda group since U.S.-led operations overthrew the Taliban regime in late 2001, leading Pakistan to send 70,000 troops to the area.
Pakistani forces surrounded a tribal area compound in 2004, suspecting that Zawahiri was inside. He was not found.
An eye surgeon, Zawahiri has become al-Qaeda's most senior spokesman in videos released in recent months [SEE VIDEOS BELOW] as bin Laden has remained out of the public eye.
Zawahiri appeared in a video released last week, calling on the United States to withdraw from Iraq. This has led some analysts to speculate that he is now effectively the group's leader.
Since the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, the United States has been offering a $25 million reward for Zawahiri. After the attacks, he was seen in video tapes with bin Laden.
VIDEO FROM AL-QAEDA: A Talk With Bin Laden Deputy Ayman Al-Zawahiri
Mass Killer Ayman Al-Zawahiri
Internet Broadcast, Via MEMRI
Part I, Dec. 7, 2005, 00:07:19
Part II, Dec. 7, 2005, 00:06:37
Part III, Dec. 7, 2005, 00:07:01
Part IV, Dec. 7, 2005, 00:06:37
“By now, everybody is talking about the evils of America ... Even America's collaborators and the people who have profited from their relations with it talk about its leaders' evil deeds.”