Sources: Wife, daughters of bin Laden's top strategist killed

Posted: Wednesday, December 05, 2001

CAIRO, Egypt -- The wife and three daughters of Osama bin Laden's top strategist were killed in an airstrike on Kandahar, the remaining Taliban stronghold, sources close to Islamic militants in Afghanistan said Tuesday.

The deaths of the family of Ayman al-Zawahri occurred Sunday, said the sources, speaking on condition of anonymity. They said several other relatives of Arabs serving in bin Laden's al-Qaida organization died in the same airstrike.

In Washington, a U.S. official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States has credible reports that members of al-Zawahri's immediate family were killed in a U.S. airstrike.

The U.S. official would not say where the airstrikes happened. Earlier, a U.S. official cast doubt on a report that al-Zawahri was injured in the same airstrike.

The Islamic sources said they had received the news from contacts inside Afghanistan. They did not know the names of the victims.

Al-Zawahri, an Egyptian physician who founded the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, is widely considered the No. 2 man in bin Laden's network.

Hani el-Sibaie, a London-based former leader of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad said in an interview with Qatar-based Al-Jazeera television that al-Zawahri's wife, ''Azza, and all her children have died.''

El-Sibaie, who remains wanted by Egyptian authorities but has asylum in England, told Al-Jazeera that an unspecified number of Arab Afghan families, most of them Egyptians, had been killed in the same attacks.

Mahfouz Azzam, an uncle of al-Zawahri, refused to comment and hung up the telephone when an Associated Press reporter asked if the family in Egypt had received any such news.

Earlier Tuesday, a military chief of Afghanistan's eastern Nangarhar province, Mohammed Zaman, said al-Zawahri was injured Monday in an American air raid in another part of Afghanistan.

Zaman's report could not be confirmed. In his comments to Al-Jazeera, El-Sibaie denied al-Zawahri was injured. U.S. officials expressed skepticism.

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