* Its all about winning hearts and minds!
ISLAMABAD (AFP) â€“ The alleged Al-Qaeda mastermind of a 2006 transatlantic airplane bombing plot was killed in a US missile attack in northwestÂ PakistanÂ early Saturday, officials said.
Â Â Â Â Â Â * PeanutÂ Carter, Annan, others refused entry to Zimbabwe
Rashid RaufÂ died when a missile hit a tribesman’sÂ house in the villageÂ of Alikhel, part of a border district known as a stronghold for Al-Qaeda and theÂ Taliban militants.
Also among the five killed in the early morning incident was Egyptian AbuÂ ZubairÂ al-Misri, another wanted Al-Qaeda operative, a senior Pakistani security official said on condition of anonymity.
“The transatlantic bombing plot alleged mastermind Rashid Rauf was killed along with an Egyptian Al-Qaeda operative in the US missile strike inÂ North Waziristan early Saturday,” a senior security official told AFP.
A Western diplomatic source told AFP the missile was fired from a jet across the border inÂ Afghanistan.
British-Pakistani Rauf was arrested in 2006 in Pakistan over the bomb plot, sparking aÂ worldwide security alert, and 24 people were detained in Britain in a major swoop.
A day later a massive security operation at London’s Heathrow Airport resulted in mass cancellations of flights for several days over fears of a terrorist attack using liquid explosives on flights from London to the US.
The British government had requested Pakistan extradite Rauf to London, where he was wanted by police in connection with the murder of his uncle in 2002.
But four years later an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan dropped terrorism charges against Rauf relating to the conspiracy, although its order was suspended when theÂ Punjab governmentÂ lodged an appeal.
Rauf had then faced charges including impersonation, carrying aÂ fake identity cardÂ and fake documents, which he denied.
He had been in custody under the Security of Pakistan Act when he escaped in December 2007 from Pakistani police custody, although all charges relating to terrorism had been dropped.
The missile strike which killed him came days after a US drone attack killed six rebels, including an Arab Al-Qaeda operative.
That attack promptedÂ Taliban militantsÂ based in the rugged tribal territory bordering Afghanistan to warn of reprisal attacks across Pakistan if there were more strikes by the US.
Terror network chiefÂ Osama bin LadenÂ is widely believed to be hiding in the tribal territory, although there is no clear information about his whereabouts.
Washington has apparently stepped up its missile strikes against suspectedÂ Al-QaedaÂ andÂ TalibanÂ hideouts in tribal areas, however the Saturday morning attack appeared to be the first that was not fired by an unmanned CIA drone.
Those strikes have come despite warnings from Pakistan that such attacks violate international law and could deepen resentment of the United States in the world’s second-largest Islamic nation.
Pakistan has officially protested to the United States that strikes violate its sovereign territory, although some officials say there was a tacit understanding between the two militaries to allow such action.
President Asif Ali ZardariÂ recently promised zero tolerance against violations of his country’s sovereignty.