ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The killing this week of one of al-Qaida's top commanders by a missile from a U.S. Predator drone aircraft could signal an escalation in U.S. covert action aimed at killing terrorist leaders and dismantling their networks in the tribal areas.
It may also embarrass President Pervez Musharraf, who has repeatedly said he would not sanction U.S. military action against al-Qaida members believed to be regrouping in the wild borderlands near Afghanistan.
The missile struck a suspected terrorist safe house in Pakistan and killed Abu Laith al-Libi, believed to be responsible for a brazen bomb attack during a visit last year by Vice President Cheney to Afghanistan, a U.S. official said Thursday.
The strike was conducted Monday night or early Tuesday, said the official, who would neither confirm nor deny that the U.S. carried it out. The attack was against a facility in Pakistan's North Waziristan region, the lawless tribal area bordering Afghanistan. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to discuss the strike publicly.
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