al Qaeda’s number two man, Ayman al-Zawahiri, may be dead following an air strike on a building in Pakistan where Zawahiri was reported to be hiding. It would be great news, of course, if Zawahiri were dead, but I’m not holding my breath. It is extraordinarily difficult to pinpoint the location of a single individual at a particular moment, as we have seen over the years with Noriega, bin Laden, Saddam and others. It’s good to put the heat on with this kind of attack and keep al Qaeda’s leaders on the run, but actually killing them is a long-shot.
UPDATE: The AP has more, but not much more. No word yet on Zawahiri. The most interesting thing is the AP account is that the AP had a stringer on the scene of the bombing within twelve hours, before any Pakistani security forces had arrived.
FURTHER UPDATE: It’s now being reported that Zawahiri was not among the dead, and apparently was not in the village at the time of the bombing.
STILL MORE: A UK reader, Maria Dami, points out that Al Jazeera is telling a different story:
As well as the 18 villagers killed, five other bodies were thought to have been removed after the attack and Pakistani agents were uncertain where they had been taken, said the first intelligence source, who declined to be identified.
One Damadola resident said three or four foreigners had come from Afghanistan for Eid. Another said he had seen bodies of at least two people who seemed to have been outsiders.
“Where these bodies have gone, I don’t know,” he said.
Pakistan’s The News newspaper said the villagers had been buried after a mass funeral led by Maulana Faqir Muhammad, a cleric wanted for giving shelter to suspected al-Qaida members.