ABC News’ Brian Ross is reporting that Pakistani military sources say the de facto head of al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was the target of air strikes just inside the Pakistani border with Afghanistan.
Jan. 13, 2006 — Today, according to Pakistani military sources, U.S. aircraft attacked a compound known to be frequented by high-level al Qaeda operatives. Pakistani officials tell ABC News that al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s top lieutenant, may have been among them.
U.S. intelligence for the last few days indicated that Zawahiri might have been in the location or about to arrive, although there is still no confirmation from U.S. officials that he was among the victims.
…Pakistani officials tell ABC News that five of those killed were high-level al Qaeda figures, and their bodies are now undergoing forensic tests for positive identification.
Officials say Zawahiri was known to have used safe houses in this area last winter and was believed to be in the area again this winter.Expect to hear more about this story throughout the holiday weekend. If Zawahiri was killed it would be a major blow to al Qaeda.
Update: Andrew Cochran at The Counterterrorism Blog has been tracking the developments in the story and it appears that while Zawahiri may have been the target Pakistani officials privately say that they don’t believe he was there. AFP reports that the US does have DNA from Zawahiri’s brother available to conduct forensic tests with, and that Pakistan has formally protested the strike.