Pakistani authorities said on Thursday at least four foreign fighters were killed in last Friday's attack in Damadola village near the Afghan border that officials say targeted but missed its apparent target, al-Zawahiri.

A Pakistani security official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he is not authorised to speak to media, named Egyptian Midhat Mursi al-Sayid Omar as among three notable al-Qaida figures who were present in the village at the time of the attack and whose bodies were believed to have been taken away by sympathisers.

Omar was an expert in explosives and poisons who carried a $5million reward on his head.

Sources said another of the dead was Abdul Rehman Al-Misri al Maghribi, a son-in-law of al-Zawahri.

The third man named was Abu Obaidah al-Misri, al-Qaida's chief of operations in Afghanistan's eastern Kunar province.

Planned feast

 

Fahim Wazir, the chief government official in the region where the strike occurred, said at least 10 or 12 fighters from outside Pakistan had been invited to attend a feast in the village of Damadola, near the Afghan border.

 

US officials have said the air strike on Friday was meant to kill al-Zawahri.

 

   Midhat Mursi al-Sayid Omar

Key facts about suspected al-Qaida master bomb-maker, believed killed in Damadola

Birth & Education: Born in Alexandria, Egypt, around 1953; chemical engineering degree from Alexandria University, 1975.
 
Background: Travelled to Saudi Arabia in 1987, and later to Afghanistan to support ani-Soviet Muslim fighters.

Alias: Abu Khabab al-Masri, literally Father of the Trotting Horse.
 
Recent activity: After the US invasion in 2001, abandoned Abu Khabab Camp was found in al-Qaida's Darunta complex in eastern Afghanistan.
Mursi apparently worked at a lab there on chemical and biological weapons, experimenting on dogs.

Wanted: US government posted a $5 million reward for him last year. Some suspect he trained human bombers who killed 17 US sailors on USS Cole in Yemen in 2000.

Family: Married to Pakistani woman. Two sons detained by Egypt in 2001 and 2004 may still be held.

Source: London's Islamic Observation Centre and other resources

According to intelligence sources, the CIA believed that al-Zawahri was among the foreigners, but Pakistani intelligence officers say he did not attend the feast, although he had been invited.

 

Friday's attack also claimed civilian lives, embarrassing Pakistan's government, a key player in the war on terror and straining ties with Washington.

 

Pervez Musharraf, the president of Pakistan, is having to cope with protests over the deaths.

 

 

Pakistan lodged a protest with Ryan Crocker, the US ambassador, on Saturday and there have been nationwide street demonstrations. Government and opposition parties have spoken against America's action.

The US government still refuses to discuss the strike, which has been condemned by Pakistan and was expected to be discussed during an official visit by Shaukat Aziz, the Pakistani prime minister, who arrived in the US on Wednesday.

Much about the attack and its aftermath remains clouded in confusion, including how many people died, where they were buried and by whom.

Islamic custom dictates that bodies be buried as soon as possible after death, and an Associated Press reporter at that time saw only 13 freshly filled graves with simple headstones and five empty graves alongside them - apparently prepared for the arrival of more dead.

When the reporter returned the next day, the five empty graves had been filled in, apparently because no more corpses had been found in the rubble of destroyed homes.