CBSN

Pakistan: Airstrike Killed Terrorists


The statement by the provincial authorities, citing the chief official in the Bajur region where the Damadola is located, said its findings were from a report compiled by a "joint investigation team" but gave no specifics on who was on the team.

Pakistani intelligence officials have described the strike as a CIA attack, probably carried out by missiles from a drone aircraft. But neither the Pakistani nor the U.S. government has provided details.

At the Pentagon, Defense Department spokesman Larry Di Rita declined to comment on any aspect of the attack, including whether there was any U.S. military involvement.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan also refused to discuss the strike, but said the U.S. would keep pursuing al Qaeda leaders.

"There are leaders that we continue to pursue and we will bring them to justice. The American people expect us to do so, and that's what this president is committed to doing," he said.

A U.S counterterrorism official said Monday that a compound hit in the attack had been visited in the past by significant terrorist figures and there were "strong indications that was happening again."

Despite the statement by the Pakistani provincial authorities, the country's interior minister, Aftab Sherpao, would say Tuesday only that there was a "possibility" foreigners were killed. He told the AP the government had "no information" about the presence of al-Zawahri.

The attack has become an embarrassment for Islamabad, a staunch U.S. ally in the war on terrorism. Many in this nation of 150 million people oppose the government's support for the United States in the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Thousands of Pakistanis took to the streets over the weekend, chanting "Death to America" and calling for the resignation of President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

Frustration has been growing over a series of suspected U.S. attacks aimed at militants along the porous frontier. The United States has 20,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, but Pakistan says it does not allow them to hunt down or attack militants across the border.

Foreign Minister Khursheed Kasuri told Parliament the attack could hurt Pakistan's support for the war on terror.

The government says it has arrested about 700 al Qaeda suspects in the past four years, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America.

"Pakistan is impressing upon the United States and the European Community that incidents like (the missile strike) on Bajur would adversely impact the ongoing cooperation in the war against terror," Kasuri told lawmakers.

He also said the strike would "neutralize the goodwill" earned by the United States in its support of relief efforts for Pakistani regions devastated by an earthquake in October that killed more than 80,000 people.

Former President George H.W. Bush — who is touring Pakistan as a U.N. envoy for the quake relief effort — declined to comment about the airstrike.

"I'm here as a representative of (Secretary-General Kofi Annan), so I leave that to someone else to comment. The feeling is that the U.S. is trying to help the people of Pakistan, and I hope that is what prevails," Mr. Bush said at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz.

In Parliament, hardline lawmakers urged Aziz to cancel his visit to Washington this week for talks on security and investment and a meeting with President Bush. Aziz said the trip would go ahead.