Pakistan Taliban Deny Zawahiri’s death. Maulvi Omar is the spokesworm for Baitullah Mehsud, and while he might be lying, it’s not likely. The Taliban are quick to promote the death of leaders on the internet when there are deaths (as they did this week with the real death from the missile strike) as this gains them more recruits at times. Once again CBS news has run with a weak story based on probably fraudulent documents. From Maulvi Omar, Spokesworm:
“Ayman al Zawahri was not present there. Ayman al Zawahri is neither present in Waziristan nor in Bajaur,” Omar said, referring to another Pakistani tribal region known as a sanctuary for al Qaeda militants.
A senior Pakistani intelligence officer also rejected suggestions that Zawahri was present when al-Masri was killed. “It’s absurd,” he told Reuters, adding that the only notable casualty had been al-Masri.
Once again I will mention that if Zawahiri and Bin Laden are in Pakistan it’s more likely that they are in a large walled compound in the exurbs of Peshwar, Lahore, or Islamad. (Remember where they found Kardazic?)
CBS has an unconfirmed report up that Ayman Al Zawahiri, Al Qaeda’s number two but also their strongest master of strategy, might be injured. Judge for yourselves, I’ve seen no mention of this in Pakistani papers, but I’m on my way out to dig now:
CBS News has obtained a copy of an intercepted letter from sources in Pakistan, which urgently requests a doctor to treat al-Zawahiri. He’s believed to be somewhere in Pakistan’s remote tribal areas of Pakistan.
The letter refers to Sheikh Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri by name – and says that he is in “severe pain” and his “injuries are infected.”
It is reportedly written by local Taliban leader, Baitullah Mehsud, whose signature and seal are visible on the letter.
The Taliban logo and the Mehsud’s seal have been confirmed by experts as legitimate.
However, CBS News has not been able to confirm the authenticity of Baitullah Mehsud’s signature and seal.
Stepping back and looking at the bigger picture, the TTP and AQ have shown that they want nothing less than a separate state for themselves carved out of the frontiers of Pakistan. Failing that they will attack Pakistan, and have throughout the negotiations. Baitullah Mehsud’s previously mentioned assassination list of 300 PPP and ANP politicos also sends clear message that Pakistan needs to get the leaders of AQ before AQ gets them. Against that background I could see this happening…
Update: more at the Jawa Report
UPDATE: Bill Roggio is reporting that the information CBS is basing the story on comes from a suspect source. Unfortunately there’s a conflict out there that seems to be between IE and Sitemeter.com, which Bill uses. You can’t get to the site with IE, so use firefox if you want to read.
Four days later, two reports emerged that stated Zawahiri was either killed or seriously injured in the strike. The first news on Zawahiri’s involvement in the strike came from STRATFOR, which repeated the claim from a Pashtu television station that Zawahiri was killed. The Pakistani station broadcast the report of Zawahiri’s demise on July 29, yet the report was not repeated in Pakistan’s robust, independent media outlets.
Update: AFP writes that there is not yet confirmation.
[Editor: I will back up what Bill is saying - surfing all of the Pakistani major newspapers, blogs, and forums reveals zero stories on this. The factor that's different about this story is the letter that CBS in theory has. As we know however, they've been suckered by fraudulent documents in the past.]
Interesting, but probably unrelated.
Factors for Doubt:
- Zawahiri has been referenced in missives to the Doctors in Jundullah in the past, along with Bin Laden however they have always been referenced by code names, and vagueness – like “the good doctor in Quetta”.
- There are active raids, like the one against the Haqqani compound Monday, but so far they seem to have come up dry.
- So far no secondary confirmation in the Pakistani press, I’m still looking for news that does not circularly reference the CBS article.
In other news from Pakistan the TTP insurection in Swat continues, with the Army using convential tactics to fight against the Taliban. Also note that security forces are swinging into place on the borders of Swat, possible to bottle up the Taliban. NWFP will continue operations in Swat.
The order transferring the sometimes renegade ISI of Pakistan under the Interior Ministry is still standing. [editor: I seem to have lost the four links in the bottom section during my updates, you can see the stories confirming the "other news" section in Saturday editions of The Frontier Post, The International News, The Pakistan Observer, and The Daily Times.]