Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Faulty Intelligence?

Last week it was widely reported that a U.S. missile attack in eastern Pakistan killed only civilians. The intended target, al-Qaeda's second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was not present. Based on reports from Pakistani intelligence, media reports cited faulty intelligence, since they believed that only civilians were killed.

Did the media use the best information that was available, or were they too quick to make assumptions without seeking out the whole story? Did they want to believe that the U.S. military made a grave error?

Now, it appears that some big fish were killed in the attack.
Pakistani intelligence sources on Thursday identified three of four al Qaeda members believed to have been killed by a U.S. airstrike last week, though they have yet to recover the bodies.

One of the dead was said to be Abdul Rehman Al-Misri al Maghribi, a son-in-law of al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri. Maghribi was responsible for al Qaeda's media department.

Another was Midhat Mursi al-Sayid 'Umar, an expert in explosives and poisons who carried a $5 million U.S. bounty on his head under the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Rewards for Justice program.
Reuters neglects to mention that this explosives expert was al-Qaeda's chief bomb maker.
The third man identified was Abu Obaidah al Misri, al Qaeda's chief of operations in Afghanistan's eastern Kunar province, where U.S. and Afghan forces regularly come under attack from militant groups.

The Pakistani intelligence officers said they were still trying to identify a fourth al Qaeda member who was also believed to have been killed in last Friday's airstrike.
From another report:
"Pakistani intelligence says this was a very important planning session involving the very top levels of al Qaeda as they get ready for a new spring offensive," explained Alexis Debat, a former official in the French Defense Ministry and now an ABC News consultant

As for Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda's No. 2 man, U.S. and Pakistani officials agree that it is still possible but increasingly unlikely that he was killed. If he is alive, he has lost many of those close to him, however.

"Zawahiri, if he slept three hours on a normal night, he's sleeping an hour and a half right now with his eyes wide open," Cloonan said. "He's looking around right now and wondering who handed him up. Not a nice feeling."