Bomb plotter targeted in drone attack

November 23, 2008|By Laura King | Laura King,Los Angeles Times

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - A U.S. missile strike may have killed a Pakistani-British man who was implicated in a plot to blow up trans-Atlantic airliners, Pakistani intelligence officials said yesterday.

Rashid Rauf, who has been a fugitive since escaping from Pakistani custody in December, was thought to have been among five militants killed in the strike near the Afghan border, the officials said. Pakistani news media also reported the death, citing security sources.

Pakistan's government confirmed that Rauf and a Saudi militant called Abu Zubair al-Masri were the apparent targets of the missile in North Waziristan in the tribal region that lies next to Afghanistan.

But Information Minister Sherry Rehman also reiterated the government's complaint that missile attacks, apparently launched from unmanned aircraft, are fanning anti-Americanism and Islamic extremism in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. "It would have been better if our authorities had been alerted for local action," Rehman said in an interview. "Drone incursions create a strong backlash."

The failed 2006 airline plot, which centered on use of liquid explosives, affected millions of air travelers around the world, prompting tighter restrictions on carry-on items allowed on commercial flights. In September, a British court convicted three men originally charged in the airline plot, but authorities considered the verdict inconclusive and sought a retrial of the principals.

In the past three months, American forces have carried out a wave of more than 20 missile attacks aimed at militants sheltering in Pakistan's tribal areas.

Pakistan has repeatedly protested the strikes, and the new civilian government has angrily denied reports that it has given the Bush administration a tacit go-ahead to carry out the raids.

Yesterday's predawn strike took place in North Waziristan, a militant stronghold and the suspected hiding place of a number of senior Taliban and al-Qaida leaders. The attack, in the village of Ali Khel, targeted a home belonging to a local Pakistani Taliban commander.

A Taliban spokesman denied that any of the people killed were militants. The spokesman, Ahmedullah Ahmedi, said three people were killed, all civilians.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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