Pakistani officials said on Saturday that the aerial bombardment targeted a house near Mir Ali, a small town in North Waziristan.

Raids stepped up

"The strike destroyed a militant hideout in the village of Alikhel in North Waziristan," a senior security official told the AFP news agency.

Al Jazeera's Kamal Hyder, reporting from Pakistan, said: "[There is] speculation today in the local media that Rauf was killed in that attack."

But he added that the raid happened in a remote area and that reporters could not easily establish what happened.

"There will be question marks unless there is credible evidence that this man was [indeed] killed," our correspondent said.

He said the raid inside the Pakistani territoty came "at a time when there is considerable anger and protestations not just from the civilian government but even the military".

The US military has increased the number of raids against suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban bases in recent months, some of which have killed civilians.

Suspect

The latest raid comes days after Abdullah Azzam al-Saudi, a senior member of al-Qaeda, was killed along with six others in a suspected US missile strike in northwest Pakistan.

Al-Saudi was supected by Washington of being the main link between al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters in Pakistan.

Most of the US raids against suspected opposition fighters have been carried out by pilotless drones.

The Pakistani government has spoken out against regular air raids by the US, saying that they alienate the population.

Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan's president, said recently that Islamabad will not tolerate any compromise to the country's sovereignty.