KUWAIT CITY (AFP) – President Pervez Musharraf has confirmed on his arrival in Kuwait the killing of a top Syrian Al-Qaeda operative in Pakistan close to its border with Afghanistan.
Asked by reporters at the airport to confirm a newspaper report that Hamza Rabia was killed in a missile strike on Thursday, Musharraf said: “Yes indeed, 200 percent confirmed.”
Musharraf said Hamza was killed “in North Waziristan”, a tribal area on the Afghan border.
“It is a place called Mirali, or little north of this town, that’s the place,” he said Saturday.
“I think he was killed the day before yesterday (Thursday), if I am not wrong,” he added.
In Islamabad, Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao also confirmed to AFP that “Hamza was killed on Thursday in an explosion at Mirali in North Waziristan.”
“Five people were killed in the explosion and we have identified that one of them was Hamza Rabia. There were two other foreigners but we do not know their identities,” he said.
The body of Hamza was not with the authorities as it was probably taken away by the militants and Sherpao said the identification was made by intelligence through its sources.
Pakistan’s English-language daily Dawn, quoting unidentified sources, said Hamza Rabia was Al-Qaeda’s operational commander and was among five militants killed in the missile attack Thursday on a house in North Waziristan.
The paper said officials claimed the casualties were the result of an explosion inside the house, but tribal witnesses insisted that a “hail of missiles fired from unmanned air vehicles struck the house”.
On Thursday local officials said the explosion occurred when bomb-making equipment detonated, killing five people, including three foreigners, in Haisori village, North Waziristan.
Musharraf’s visit to Kuwait, his first to the emirate since ascending to power in 1999, is the first leg of a tour in the Gulf region which will also take him to Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
He is due to hold talks with Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad Al-Sabah during his two-day visit.
Musharraf said the purpose of the visit is “to strengthen political bonds through stronger economic and commercial relationships … and how to enhance our commercial and economic relationships.”
Talks will also tackle “coordination on the anti-terrorism campaign that Pakistan and other countries are involved in,” he told reporters at the airport.
The official KUNA news agency quoted Musharraf on Saturday as saying that his talks in Yemen will discuss efforts to improve intelligence cooperation in the fight against terrorism.
In Saudi Arabia, Musharraf will attend the summit meeting of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).
Oil-rich Gulf Arab states have pledged hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and airlifted large amounts of relief assistance for survivors of the devastating quake that recently struck Asia, mainly in Pakistan.
Saudi Arabia announced an emergency aid package worth 133 million dollars to help rebuild infrastructure in Pakistan, while Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates pledged 100 million dollars each.
Half of the amount granted by Kuwait will be offered in the form of relief assistance while the other 50 million dollars will be used to repair infrastructure damaged by the quake.