Fifty-two year old Egyptian chemist Midhat Mursi, also known as Abu Khabab al-Masri, was reportedly identified by Pakistani authorities Wednesday. He is known for his chemical weapon expertise, strange alias and red beard.
Al Qaeda is "wedded to the spectacular," noted FBI counterterrorism analyst Donald Van Duyn in an Associated Press report last month, and Mursi was said to be exploring such possibilities when last seen, brewing up deadly compounds and gassing dogs in Afghanistan.
The FBI and other U.S. agencies posted a $5 million reward this year for Mursi's capture. Egypt's government reportedly seized and locked up his two sons in an effort to track down the father.
The U.S. reward poster says the alleged bomb maker, also known as Abu Khabab, may be in Pakistan. But "we don't think there's really a good fix on where he is," Van Duyn said.
"Nobody knows," said Mohamed Salah, a Cairo expert on Islamic extremists. "He could be in any country, under another ID. Or he could be on the Afghan-Pakistani border, with Zawahri."
The reward poster also says he operated a terrorist training camp in Derunta, Afghanistan, where he provided hundreds of students with poisons and explosives training. Mursi also allegedly proliferated training manuals that contain recipes for crude chemical and biological weapons.
Some of these training manuals were recovered by U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
Earlier Wednesday, Pakistani intelligence agents hunted for the graves of four al Qaeda militants believed killed in an airstrike near the Afghan border — bodies that reportedly were whisked away by surviving comrades.
The purported U.S. missile attack on the village of Damadola, which Pakistani intelligence officials said targeted Osama bin Laden's top deputy, also claimed civilian lives, embarrassing Pakistan's government and straining ties with Washington.
The U.S. government refuses to discuss Friday's airstrike, which has been condemned by Pakistan and was expected to be discussed during an official visit to Washington this week by Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.
Much about the attack and its aftermath remains clouded in confusion, including how many people died, where they were buried and by whom.
The White House Tuesday refused to confirm any U.S. connection to the attack on that Pakistani village, reports CBS News correspondent Peter Maer. It says it doesn't comment on operational matters.
Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, on the eve of a trip to Washington, said that despite the importance of ties with the United States, attacks inside Pakistan "cannot be condoned."
"Pakistan has committed to fighting terrorism, but naturally we cannot accept any action within our country which results in what happened over the weekend," Aziz said, referring to the missile strike Friday in the border village of Damadola.
Eighteen residents, including women and children, were also killed in the strike, the provincial government said Tuesday.
Provincial authorities say the attack killed 18 residents of the Pashtun village, and they also say they believe sympathizers took the bodies of four or five foreign militants to bury them in the mountains, thereby preventing their identification.
He said authorities were also looking for two prominent pro-Taliban clerics accused of harboring militants, Maulana Faqir Mohammed and Liaqat Ali, who were allegedly in Damadola and survived the assault.
Intelligence officials say the dead foreigners could be aides of Ayman al-Zawahri, bin Laden's top deputy, who is thought to have sent them in his place to an Islamic holiday dinner to which he'd been invited in Damadola on the night of the attack.
Hours after the attack, an Associated Press reporter visited the village, which consists of a half-dozen widely scattered houses on a hillside about four miles from the Afghan border.
Residents said then that all the dead were local people and no one had taken any bodies away. However, it appeared feasible bodies or wounded could have been spirited away in the darkness after the attack, which took place about 3 a.m.
Islamic custom dictates that bodies be buried as soon as possible, and the reporter saw 13 freshly filled graves with simple headstones and five empty graves alongside them — apparently prepared for more dead. When the reporter returned the next day, the five empty graves were filled in, apparently because no more bodies had been found in the rubble.
The only tidbits of official information that have surfaced since then have come from provincial authorities, and they have yet to give a list of the dead. But Pakistani intelligence officials have said they believe some of those killed were Pakistani militants and that their bodies were also removed from the scene.
A Pakistani army official has told the AP that some bodies were taken away for DNA tests — information at odds with reports from provincial authorities. The federal government has not confirmed the report about DNA tests.
Pakistan maintains it was not given advance word of the airstrike, which was reportedly carried out by unmanned Predator drones flying from Afghanistan.
Thousands have taken to the streets in protest over the attack, denouncing the U.S. and Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who ended Pakistan's support of the Taliban regime in late 2001 and has himself been targeted by al Qaeda attacks.
Nevertheless, allegations persist that Pakistan harbors dangerous Islamic militants.
On Wednesday, more than 5,000 people marched through the Afghan border town of Spinboldak, chanting "Death to Pakistan" and "Death to al Qaeda" to protest a suicide attack at a fair this week that killed 21 people.
Afghan officials claim the bomber — the latest in about 25 suicide attackers to strike in Afghanistan in the past four months — trained in Pakistan. Islamabad denies giving sanctuary to terrorists.