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U.S. Missile, al-Qaida Death May Be Linked By BASHIRULLAH KHAN, Associated Press Writer

21 minutes ago

Shrapnel that appeared to be from an American-made missile was found Sunday at the house where Pakistan said a top al-Qaida operative was killed in an explosion, although President Bush's national security adviser declined to confirm the death.

U.S. and Pakistani officials declined to confirm an NBC report, citing anonymous officials, that the attack on the house where Hamza Rabia reportedly died was launched by a U.S. drone.

But local residents found at least two pieces of shrapnel at the blast scene inscribed with the designation of the Hellfire missile, which is carried by the U.S. Air Force's unmanned, remote-controlled Predator aircraft.

The metal pieces bore the designator "AGM-114," the words "guided missile" and the initials "US."

John Pike, director of the defense Web site GlobalSecurity.org, said the Hellfire is used almost exclusively by the U.S. military. Al-Qaida operatives would be unlikely to have Hellfire missiles, Pike said, although he said the possibility could not be completely discounted.

A man who lives near the house said he heard at least two detonations and saw a white streak of light before a missile hit the house, sparking a huge explosion.

"I ran to my home fearing it may hit me," said Mohammed Nasir, adding that residents were unaware that foreigners were living in their neighborhood.

A senior Pakistani intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to talk to the media, said Saturday that Rabia died in a huge explosion set off by a missile attack.

U.S. national security adviser Stephen Hadley declined to confirm that Rabia, said to be among al-Qaida's top five leaders and responsible for planning overseas attacks, was dead or that the attack was carried out by a pilotless U.S. plane.

"At this point we are not in a position publicly to confirm that he is dead. But if he is, that is a good thing for the war on terror," Hadley told "Fox News Sunday."

Rabia was involved in planning two assassination plots against Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, and "we believe he was involved in planning for attacks against the United States," Hadley said.

Musharraf said Saturday it was "200 percent confirmed" that Rabia was killed.

The senior Pakistani intelligence official said the missile attack blew up a stockpile of bomb-making materials, grenades and other munitions. Pakistan Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao said Rabia's two Syrian bodyguards also died in the explosion.

Pakistani officials said Rabia's death was confirmed by DNA tests. But the Dawn newspaper, citing officials it did not identify, said Saturday his body had been retrieved by associates from outside Pakistan. Dawn also cited unnamed sources saying the attack may have been launched from two pilotless planes.

Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed declined to comment on the report about Rabia's remains but said there was "other information" besides the DNA tests that confirmed his identity.

"He was a high-profile commander in the network. We were tracing him for the last two years," Sherpao told The Associated Press on Sunday. "Naturally any person killed in their hierarchy is a big blow for them."

Two U.S. counterterrorism officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the information's sensitivity, said Saturday that Rabia was believed to be an Egyptian and head of al-Qaida's foreign operations, possibly as senior as the No. 3 in the terrorist group, just below al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and his lieutenant, Ayman al-Zawahri. They are believed to be hiding in a rugged area along Afghanistan's border with Pakistan.

Rabia's death would not enhance the prospect of catching either bin Laden or al-Zawahri, according to another Pakistani intelligence official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of his job. The official said intelligence agents had no clue about the whereabouts of bin Laden or al-Zawahri.

Rabia filled the vacuum created this year by the capture of the previous operations chief, Abu Faraj al-Libbi, the two U.S. officials said.

Rabia would have been responsible for training, recruiting, networking and, most importantly, planning international terrorist activities outside the Afghan-Pakistan region. He had a wide array of jihadist contacts, one official said, and was believed to be trying to reinvigorate al-Qaida's operations.

One Pakistani intelligence official said Rabia had been the target of a Nov. 5 attack in the same area that killed eight people, but he managed to escape. That attack initially was blamed on militants setting off bombs they were making.

Miran Shah is a strategic tribal region where al-Qaida militants are believed to be hiding and where Pakistani forces have launched several operations against them.

___

Associated Press reporters Munir Ahmad, Sadaqat Jan and Riaz Khan in Pakistan; Katherine Shrader in Washington; and Michael Weissenstein in New York contributed to this report.

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actually there was this car in lebanon i believe it was, 1 months or so ago(?) with 4 terror dudes that got taken out by a pedator. and  there are of course many times that not so high value targets were attacked by drowns controlled from near cia hq in VA. talk about absurd. you commute through rush hour traffic to sit in your trailer and join the war 9 to 5.

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