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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 January 2006, 09:46 GMT
Pakistan probes 'al-Qaeda' deaths
Shah Zaman and his family look at the wreckage of their home in Damadola
A number of villagers lost their homes in the strike
The Pakistan government says it is trying to establish the identity of a number of foreign militants it says were killed in a recent US air strike.

Some unconfirmed intelligence reports say three high-ranking al-Qaeda members were among four foreign militants killed in the raid.

But the government says the bodies have not been recovered for identification.

Last Friday's attack, near the Afghan border, killed 18 local people, sparking widespread condemnation.

US officials have refused to comment on the attack.

'Removed from site'

The Pakistan Information Minister, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, would only repeat that a number of militants had been killed in Friday's US attack on a village in the Bajaur Agency region on the border with Afghanistan.

Map of Pakistan/Afghanistan border

He said the authorities were still investigating their identities.

Earlier, some intelligence officials were reported as saying that Egyptian bomb expert Midhat Mursi - information on whose whereabouts carries a $5m US bounty - was among those killed.

Abdul Rehman al-Misri al-Maghribi - al-Qaeda deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri's son-in-law and reputed head of the network's media operations - was also reported to have died.

And a third victim was reported to be Abu Obaidah al-Misri, al-Qaeda's head of operations in Kunar province, just over the border in eastern Afghanistan.

Pakistani intelligence officials say they are still trying to identify a fourth person killed.

There have been conflicting reports over the aftermath of the attack, with some accounts saying that the bodies of those foreigners who were killed were removed from the site by sympathisers.

Border village

When news of Friday's attack first emerged, there were reports that Ayman al-Zawahiri had been killed.

He has eluded capture since the US overthrew the Taleban in Afghanistan in 2001 despite a $25m bounty on his head.

Ayman al-Zawahiri

Osama Bin Laden's second-in-command is regarded as the ideological brains behind the al-Qaeda network.

The Egyptian has also become its most visible spokesperson, issuing a number of video and audio tapes, whilst Osama Bin Laden has not been seen or heard from for more than a year.

The raid took place in the village of Damadola in the Bajaur tribal area, about 7km (4.5 miles) from the Afghan border.

Jets - or in some accounts a Predator drone - reportedly fired missiles at a particular housing compound in the village.

Reporters who reached Damadola spoke of three houses hundreds of metres apart that had been destroyed.

The US has about 20,000 troops in Afghanistan, but Pakistan does not officially allow them to operate across the border.


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