Al-Zawahiri Skipped Dinner Invite

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.


U.S. Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh said the problem is that the Pakistani government does not control the border region where Osama bin Laden and al-Zawahiri have been believed to be hiding for the past four years, since the U.S.-led military ouster of the Taliban for hosting al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

"It's a regrettable situation, but what else are we supposed to do?" Bayh, who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told CNN. "The Pakistani border is a real problem."

Two Pakistani intelligence officials said that al-Zawahiri, who has a wife from a local tribe, had been invited to a dinner in Damadola village to mark last week's Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, but apparently changed his mind. One of the officials said al-Zawahiri had sent some aides instead and investigators were trying to determine whether they had been in any of the three houses that were destroyed in the air strike.

The officials both spoke on condition of anonymity because they aren't authorized to speak to journalists. They said their information was from Pakistan's own security agencies and intelligence shared by the CIA after the attack.

The second intelligence official said that 12 bodies, including seven foreigners, had been taken from the village, which lies about four miles from Afghanistan. He said the bodies were reclaimed by other militants, although another Pakistani official told AP on Saturday that some were taken away for DNA tests.

It wasn't immediately possible to reconcile the conflicting accounts, which reflect widespread confusion over the attack and the refusal of the government to comment on the details of what happened. Residents of Damadola say that no militants were staying in the village and all the dead were local people.

The senior government official said Pakistan had been investigating rumors that al-Zawahiri had in recent months visited the tribal region of Bajur where Damadola is located, a tip gleaned from the interrogation of Abu Farraj al-Libbi, a senior al Qaeda figure arrested in a northwestern Pakistan town in May.

Al-Libbi is accused of masterminding two assassination attempts on Pakistan's President Gen. Pervez Musharraf in December 2003 that killed 17 other people. He was interrogated in Pakistan and later handed over to the United States.