Al Qaeda chemist killed in U.S. strike: Pakistani agents

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) – An al Qaeda chemical and biological weapons expert named Abu Khabab al-Masri was killed in a suspected U.S. missile strike, Pakistani intelligence officials said a day after the attack.

Al-Masri, who carried a $5 million U.S. bounty on his head, had earlier been identified as the likely target of Monday’s strike on a house in a madrasa compound in a Pakistani tribal area bordering Afghanistan.

Altogether six people were killed in the attack, which residents in Azam Warsak, a village in the South Waziristan tribal region, say was launched by a U.S. drone aircraft.

An intelligence official said on Tuesday that three of the victims were close associates of al-Masri, regarded as one of al Qaeda’s top bomb makers, and his wife and two children were wounded.

“Our reports say he’s dead, while his wife and two children are under treatment in a private clinic in the area,” he said.

It is not the first time that authorities have claimed that the 55-year-old Egyptian chemist had been killed.

Another security official said the militants’ friends buried the dead in Azam Warsak, about 20 km (12 miles) east of Wana, main town of the region, shortly after the attack and nobody was allowed to attend the funeral.

No official was available for comments.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani assured U.S. President George W. Bush in Washington on Monday that government was committed to fighting terrorism and securing its border with Afghanistan.

Pakistani security forces have been fighting militants in the tribal lands and have arrested hundreds of al Qaeda members since President Pervez Musharraf sided with the United States following al Qaeda attacks against U.S. cities on September 11, 2001.

But, Washington, alarmed by rising casualties among western forces in Afghanistan, wants Pakistan to do more to stop militants from launching cross-border attacks.

Western governments fear the government’s strategy of seeking dialogue with militants has backfired by providing breathing space for fighters to regroup and infiltrate Afghanistan.

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