Pakistani Official claims 'foreign terrorists' among civilians killed in U.S. airstrike

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

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Reports from Pakistan say that at least four or five terrorists were killed in last Friday's airstrike. The attack took place in the village of Damadola in the semi-autonomous agency of Bujar, a tribal region bordering Afghanistan.

According to unnamed Pakistani intelligence officials, top Al-Queda operative Ayman al-Zawahiri was invited to a dinner in the village at the time of the strike, but failed to show up.

"According to the available information at least 4 to 5 foreign elements had also been killed in the incident," the Political Agent Fahim Wazir of Bujar said Tuesday. He added that 10 to 12 foreign extremists had been invited to dinner at the compound that Zawahiri was supposed to attend, but did not show up and that the "dead bodies have been taken away by their companions to hide the real reason of the attack."

This is the first official statement by Pakistani authorities indicating that foreign militants were killed in the attack, which officials have said also killed innocent civilians. Women and children were among the 18 people that were killed in the airstrike. "It is regrettable that 18 local people lost their lives in the attack, but this fact also cannot be denied, that 10 - 12 foreign extremists had been invited on a dinner," the statement also said.

There has been no announcement regarding the names of those terrorists killed and DNA tests are still being done on the victims to make a final decision. Media reports say that most if not all of the terrorists were Egyptian.

U.S. news networks have reported that, according to unidentified intelligence officials, the attack was carried out by unmanned drone aircraft which launched missiles at the target location.

In the wake of two days of protests that erupted across Pakistan after the strike, the ruling party demanded an apology from the United States.

The protesters are opposing the government participation in the U.S.-led war on terror, and the recent series of U.S. attacks along the frontier that killed civilians. Shahid Shamsi, a spokesman for the anti-American religious coalition that organized the rallies announced more and bigger protests in the days to come. He said "Pakistani civilians, including children, were killed," and explained that "principles cannot be broken in the name of (fighting) terrorism."

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