Big Ol' Pakistani Air Raid Kills 80 Militants, Zawahiri Targeted?

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Oct 30, 2006 4:05 PM

Correction: I had my terrorist wrong in the headline. Thanks, Ed, for spotting it! It's Zawahiri, not Zarqawi, the terrorist formerly known as alive.

The basics. Eighty dead at a school --madrassa-- in Pakistan. The madrassa was flattened with four or five missiles.

The locals are claiming the victims were innocents, not militants:

Islamic leaders and al-Qaida-linked militants blamed the United States for the airstrike and called for nationwide demonstrations to condemn the attack that flattened the school _ known as a madrassa _ and ripped apart those inside. Furious villagers and religious leaders said the pre-dawn missile barrage killed innocent students and teachers.

But it notes that a cleric known for sheltering terrorists and for being buddy-buddy with al-Zawahiri was killed:

Among those killed in the attack in the remote northwestern village of Chingai, two miles from the Afghan border, was a cleric who had sheltered militants in the past and was believed associated with al-Qaida's No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahri.

And, there was this guy:

Another al-Zawahri lieutenant, Faqir Mohammed, apparently left the madrassa 30 minutes before the strike, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The AP story reads as though the Pakistanis conducted the raid, while some in Pakistan contended it could have been an American plane. The Blotter goes ahead and calls it a U.S. strike, and offers more details on the targets (emphasis mine).

Despite earlier reports that the missiles had been launched by Pakistani military helicopters, Pakistani intelligence sources now tell ABC News that the missiles were fired from a U.S. Predator drone plane. 

Between two and five senior al Qaeda militants were killed in the attack, including the mastermind of the airliners plot in the U.K., according to Pakistani intelligence sources.

Those same sources say there's no word on whether Zawahiri was killed, but they doubt he would have been in the madrassa, which was a fairly obvious target. They do, however, think Pakistani intelligence has him boxed in a 40-sq-mile area.

Allah speculates on whether we were aiming for the big guy.

Bonus Qana-like imagery:

Thousands of tribespeople traveled from nearby villages to inspect Chingai's destroyed madrassa, many wailing and others chanting "Long live Islam." The blast leveled the building, tearing mattresses and scattering Islamic books, including copies of the Quran.

Does Green-Helmet Guy travel for gigs, I wonder? Keep an eye on the pictures.