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Pak calls US airstrike an intelligence failure

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Last updated on: January 15, 2006 19:38 IST

The United States missile strike intended to kill al-Qaeda's number two leader Ayman Zawahiri missed the intended target and the operation probably resulted from an intelligence botch-up, Pakistani officials have said.

"There is no indication that Zawahiri was there. Probably there was an intelligence botch-up," a senior Pakistani official based in Peshawar, was quoted as saying by local daily Dawn.

He said there was a tip-off that Zawahiri was invited to a village in the Bajur area, where his in-laws live but he was not present there when US spy planes hit three houses on Friday.

The operation was launched on the basis of an intelligence report that the al-Qaeda leader was amongst the few invited to a dinner in one of the three houses at the night of the attack on Eid day, he said.

Most of the victims of the air strike on the houses at the foothills of Damadola village, about 25 km northeast of Bajur regional headquarters, Khaar, were women and children. Officials suspect the toll could be higher and some foreign militants might have been killed in the attack and buried elsewhere.

Pakistan, on Saturday, summoned the US Ambassador Ryan Crocker and lodged a protest over the incident, while the Islamist alliance Muttahida Majlis Amal organised rallies protesting the US air attacks.

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