US Drones Bomb Islamic School in Pakistan
- U.S. Predator drone killed 80 In Pakistan Attack
10/30/06 "ABC" -- -- Ayman al Zawahiri was the target of a Predator
missile attack this morning on a religious school in Pakistan,
according to Pakistani intelligence sources.
ABC News has learned the raid was launched after U.S. intelligence
received tips and examined Predator reconnaissance indicating that al
Qaeda's No. 2 man may have been staying at the school, which is
located in the Bajaur region near the village that is thought to be al
Qaeda's winter headquarters.
Despite earlier reports that the missiles had been launched by
Pakistani military helicopters, Pakistani intelligence sources now
tell ABC News that the missiles were fired from a U.S. Predator drone
Between two and five senior al Qaeda militants were killed in the
attack, including the mastermind of the airliners plot in the U.K.,
according to Pakistani intelligence sources.
No word yet on whether or not Zawahiri was killed in the raid, but one
Pakistani intelligence source did express doubt that Zawahiri would
have been staying in a madrassa, which is an obvious target for
strikes against militants. That source, however, did express
confidence that Pakistani intelligence is closing in on Zawahiri's
One of the clerics who is believed to have been killed today, Maulana
Liaquat, was one of the two main local leaders believed to be
Pakistani intelligence sources tell ABC News they believe they have
"boxed" Zawahiri in a 40-square-mile area between the Khalozai Valley
in Bajaur and the village of Pashat in Kunar, Afghanistan. They hope
to capture or kill him in the next few months.
Alexis Debat is an ABC News consultant.
82 die as missiles rain on Bajaur: Pakistan owns up to strike; locals
blame US drones
By Anwarullah Khan
KHAAR (Bajaur), Oct 30: Eighty-two people were killed, 12 teenagers
among them, in an air strike at a religious seminary in Damadola in
the Bajaur tribal region on Monday morning.
Pakistan's military spokesman, Maj-Gen Shaukat Sultan, said those
killed in the dawn attack were all militants and denied that there had
been any collateral damage.
The operation, he said, was launched following intelligence reports
that the seminary was being used as a training facility for terrorist
But local residents believe the air strike was carried out by
fixed-wing US drones which fired hellfire missiles at the compound,
killing all those inside the seminary, including its administrator
Maulvi Liaqat Ali.
"Pakistani helicopters arrived 20 minutes later and fired rockets at
the hillside," one resident said.
However, the military spokesman denied US involvement in the attack.
"The operation was launched after confirmed intelligence reports that
a number of miscreants were getting terrorist training in a
madressah," Maj-Gen Sultan told a news briefing in Islamabad.
He said that the operation was conducted only by the Pakistan Army,
after issuing a warning to the militants and keeping the madressah
under watch for a few days.
He reiterated that Pakistan would not allow anyone to use its soil for
No journalist was allowed entry into Bajaur and passengers entering
the tribal region were asked to identify themselves.
Surprisingly, the strike on Damadola, the second since January, came
the day the government was expected to sign a peace agreement with
militants in Bajaur replicating the September 5 truce reached with
militants in North Waziristan.
The peace agreement, had it been signed, would have resulted in the
grant of a pardon to the two most wanted militants, Maulana Faqir
Mohammad and Maulvi Liaqat. Both had been charged with harbouring and
providing shelter to Al Qaeda operatives.
Locals in Chenagai, a small hamlet in Damadola, a village some 13km
northeast of the regional headquarters, Khaar, said two loud
explosions had woken them up at around 5am.
One missile hit the compound while the other landed in a nearby
stream, they said. The seminary was completely flattened. That was
followed by a third strike from a second drone, they said.
About 15 minutes later, they said, three helicopter gunships of the
Pakistan Army arrived and fired a few rockets that slammed into nearby
"Spy planes (drones) have been flying over the area for the last few
days," Akhunzada, a local resident said.
"There were two big explosions. They were so powerful that they shook
the earth and rattled our doors and windows," Sahibzada Haroon Rashid,
the Jamaat-i-Islami member in the lower house of parliament, who lives
barely a kilometre away from the bombed-out seminary, told Dawn on
telephone from Khaar.
He said the helicopters arrived at the scene a good 15 minutes later,
firing a few rockets before flying back.
"Those were small thuds nothing in comparison to the big explosions
that preceded them minutes earlier," he said.
Like many other residents, Sahibzada Haroon is convinced the seminary
was bombed by US drones and Pakistan owned the air strikes up to cover
up the whole incident and avoid embarrassment.
"Absolutely. I have no doubt in my mind that it was done by the
Americans and we are now making a futile attempt to cover it up," he said.
Local residents rushed to the scene of the bombing and pulled out the
dead. Few bodies were found to be unharmed as locals collected
mutilated body parts from under the single-storey building that was
the headquarters of the defunct Tehrik Nifaz-i-Shariat Muhammadi.
Locals admitted that it also served as a meeting-point for militants
waging `jihad' against the US-led Nato forces in the neighbouring
eastern Afghan province of Kunar.
Apparently only three of the 83 struck by the air raid had survived
with wounds. Two of them died later at a local hospital, taking the
total death toll to 82. However, only 55 of those killed could be
accounted for; the remaining victims were said to have perished in the
Forty of those killed were buried in a nearby graveyard while 15
bodies were sent to their respective villages. While most of those
killed were said to be young men in their twenties, 12 of them were
said to be children in their early teens.
There was no `high-value target' or any foreign militant among those
killed, local residents and government officials said.
Fugitive cleric Maulana Faqir Mohammad and his deputy Maulvi Liaqat
Ali had escaped the US missile attack in the Damadola village in
January this year that had left 18 civilians, mostly women and
The January bombing and the death of innocent civilians had triggered
public backlash, forcing the government to lodge a protest with the
United States. The US later said the strike had been aimed at killing
Al Qaeda No 2, Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was expected to turn up there
for a dinner meeting.
Shops and markets were closed in the entire Bajaur region as news of
the latest bombing spread. Thousands of angry Bajauris turned up at
the first funeral of about 20 victims at 9am.
Maulana Faqir Mohammad, in his emotional speech, vowed to continue
`jihad' against the US and alleged that the bombing was an attempt to
wreck peace in the tribal region. He announced that a black day would
be observed on Tuesday and asked his followers to vent their anger in
a peaceful manner.
Senior NWFP Minister Sirajul Haq also rushed to Bajaur and announced
quitting his office in the MMA government in the NWFP. But, much to
his embarrassment, his party chief, Qazi Hussain Ahmad, and Chief
Minister Akram Durrani made it clear later the move had been on the
anvil for some time and was not linked to the bombing.
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