WASHINGTON, Aug 2: US officials are refusing to confirm or deny media reports that Osama bin Laden’s deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed or wounded in the missile attack in South Waziristan on July 28.
The CBS News reported on Friday that it had obtained a copy of an intercepted letter in Pakistan which urgently requested a doctor to treat Al Zawahri. The letter was purportedly from Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud and said Al Zawahri was in “severe pain” and his “injuries are infected”.
The text read: “From the Head of the Military Commission — Shaikh Dr Ayman Al Zawahiri has been severely wounded. He is bleeding and the wounds are infected. Please send a doctor who is a prisoner — Baitullah Mehsud.”
The letter bears a logo in Pashto which identifies it to be the letterhead of the “Taliban Islamic Movement of South and North Waziristan, Makeen, Emarat”.
It appears to be a computer printout and uses a font used for both Urdu and Arabic languages, instead of the Urdu font commonly used in Pakistan.
It also has a seal that US experts identified as that of Baitullah Mehsud. In the centre, Baitullah Mehsud Naqshbandi is printed in the same font. Then there is a sentence in Urdu, saying: “Our mission, Sharia or Martyrdom.”
On the right hand, the letter bears another seal, showing crossed swords along with a book and a candle and a few words in Pashto identifying it as Afghanistan’s official seal under the Taliban rule.
Dawn discussed this letter and the seal with terrorism experts in Washington who said they too had doubts about the letter’s authenticity.
They noted that the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan no longer used the letterhead. According to them, they now used an Urdu letterhead while the one shown by CBS was in Pashto.
Mehsud’s signature also seemed different from the one he usually uses.
The letter is dated July 29, a day after a US missile strike killed six people, including an Al Qaeda chemical and biological weapons expert near Azam Warsak village.
A Mehsud spokesman Maulvi Umar, however, rejected the letter and said it was a fake. “We deny it categorically,” he said.
The Taliban spokesman said: “Whenever America targets and kills innocent people it comes up with such propaganda, that it has killed a big personality, in an attempt to justify the cruelty it has done.” While American authorities said they did not know if Al Zawahiri was present during the attack, they told the CBS that they were investigating the report.
Pakistani officials also doubted the letter’s authenticity, saying they have not seen any evidence to support the claim that Al Zawahiri was hit in the missile strike.
AFP adds: “There is no evidence or information. We have no reliable information,” Director-General of ISPR Maj-Gen Athar Abbas said.