Al-Zawahiri Skipped Dinner Invite

Angry protesters chant anti-U.S. slogans during a protest in Islamabad, Pakistan, Sunday, Jan. 15. Islamic groups staged nationwide protests Sunday against a purported CIA airstrike that Pakistan says killed innocent civilians. AP

Al Qaeda's No. 2 leader was invited to a dinner marking an Islamic festival on the night of the devastating U.S. missile strike in a Pakistani border village, but did not show up, Pakistani intelligence officials said Sunday.

Ayman al-Zawahiri sent some of his aides instead, and investigators are trying to establish if any of them were among the at least 17 people killed in the attack. Thousands of outraged Pakistanis took to the streets, infuriated by news of the U.S. air strikes and the deaths of women and children who had been sleeping at the time of the 3 a.m. attack, reports CBS News correspondent Joie Chen.

Some 10,000 people rallied in Karachi, Pakistan's biggest city, chanting "Death to America" and "Stop bombing against innocent people." Hundreds massed in the capital, Islamabad, and in Lahore, Multan and Peshawar burning U.S. flags and demanding the withdrawal of U.S. troops from neighboring Afghanistan.

The U.S. government has yet to formally comment on the air strike, but Sen. John McCain and other U.S. lawmakers defended it Sunday.

"This war on terror has no boundaries," McCain, who challenged President Bush for the Republican presidential nomination in 2000, told CBS's Face the Nation. "We have to go where these people are, and we have to take them out."

Pakistan is a key U.S. ally in the war on terror but doesn't allow American forces on its soil. On Saturday, the government lodged a diplomatic protest and condemned the attack, saying it had killed innocent civilians.

In a sign of the mistrust that exists between the allies, two top officials, one from Pakistan's powerful military, the other from the civilian government, said Sunday that it was only told by U.S. officials about the air strike after it happened. Neither official wanted to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Many in this nation of 150 million people oppose the government's ties with Washington and there is increasing frustration over a recent series of suspected U.S. attacks along the rugged frontier aimed at militants.
  • Scott Benjamin

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