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US Attack Drone Kills 82 with Missiles Allegedly Meant for Zawahiri

Amir Mir & Agencies | October 31, 2006

US got Musharraf’s consent for attack after telling him that Osama’s pointsman was hiding in the Bajaur madrassa

ISLAMABAD /KHAR: The Monday morning's bloody missile strikes by the US predator drone plane that killed 82 alleged militants at a Pakistani religious seminary once again failed to hit their target — Osama's right hand man Dr Ayman al Zawahiri, who had survived a similar American missile attack on January 13, 2006 that had killed 18 people in Bajaur.

Though the Pakistan government refuted reports about NATO's involvement in the strike, intelligence sources in Islamabad say that the village of Bajaur in Khar was bombed by American predator drone plane thrice and Pakistan had to own up to the attack.

Sources say the attack was launched with Musharraf's consent after he was informed by the American intelligence that Zawahiri, who had thrice issued edicts to kill the Pakistani ruler, was staying at Bajaur's religious seminary.

Zawahiri had travelled to Bajaur from Afghanistan's border province of Kunar on the eve of a peace deal (on the pattern of the September 5 North Waziristan deal) which was to be signed between Pakistani authorities and Taliban-backed militants in the border province. Bajaur is a major corridor for Taliban militants to enter Afghanistan.

However, intelligence sources believe that General Musharraf was given wrong information to get permission for the missile strikes which were actually meant to sabotage the likely peace agreement between the Bajaur militants and the Pakistani authorities.

The sources said there was no possibility of Zawahir hiding in the Bajaur Agency, given the fact that the area had been under constant surveillance after the January 13 American air strikes there.

Despite Musharraf's claims that the North Waziristan deal and any other deals in the tribal areas would help stop cross-border terrorism in Afghanistan, NATO officials had been expressing fears that such deals would convert the Pakistani tribal areas into the winter headquarters of al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Also, Osama and his deputy Zawahiri are widely thought to be hiding in the Pak-Afghan border region, which is home to fiercely independent tribal peoples. Afghan government officials contend that the Pakistani side of the border is serving as a sanctuary for newly aggressive Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan who have already announced their plans to re-establish the Islamic Emirate of Taliban by April 2007.

Meanwhile, up to 20,000 people protested Tuesday in Khar, claiming innocent students and teachers were killed in the attack in nearby Chingai village. They chanted, “Death to Bush, Death to Musharraf”. In a fiery speech, local pro Taliban elder Inayatur Rahman said he has prepared a “squad of suicide bombers” to target Pakistani security forces in the same way that militants are attacking Americans in Afghanistan and Iraq.

”We will carry out these suicide attacks soon,” he said, asking the crowd if they approved the idea. The angry mob yelled back in unison, “Yes “. One of the three survivors, 22-year-old Abu Bakar, said from his Peshawar hospital bed that the seminary was used by students — including many children — and teachers, not terrorists.

“There was not militant training in the madrassa,” said Bakar, whose legs were broken by rubble. “We had come here to learn Allah's religion.” Bakar said 86 people were inside the seminary and just he and two other students _ 15 and 16 years old — survived the raid. Many children, including some as young as 5, were among the dead, he said.

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf said that those killed in the airstrike in the northwestern tribal area were militants who received arms training at the seminary.

“We knew exactly who they were and what they were doing. They were all militants using weapons doing military training within the compound,” he said.

“Anyone who is saying that these people were innocent Taliban (students), is telling lies. They were militants doing military training. We were watching them for the last seven days.”

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