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Zawahri not present during attack - official
Updated: 2006-01-14 09:18

ISLAMABAD, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Al Qaeda's second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahri, was not in a village near the Afghan border that was hit by a a U.S. airstrike early on Friday morning, a senior Pakistani government official said on Saturday.

This is an undated handout picture of Ayman al-Zawahri, said to be the right hand man of al-Qaida terrorist leader Osama bin Laden. [AP]

"Al-Zawahri was not there at the time of the attack," the official told Reuters, after U.S. intelligence sources in Washington had earlier said the airstrike that killed at least 18 people in northern Pakistan had targeted Osama bin Laden's deputy.

Al Qaeda No.2 may have been killed: US media

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.
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