A senior Pakistani intelligence source tells ABC News that an American Predator drone fired the first missiles to strike a religious school, or madrassa, in Pakistan where al Qaeda militants were believed to be hiding yesterday.
After the Predator strike, the source says, Pakistan sent in attack helicopters to chase down 15 men who took shelter in a mosque at the compound. The men then fled the area and headed toward the mountains along the Afghan border, where they were fired on by the Pakistani helicopters.
American intelligence officials at the CIA had no comment.
THE BLOTTER RECOMMENDS
According to the Pakistani intelligence source, al Qaeda's second in command, Ayman al Zawahiri, regularly stayed at the madrassa, along with Abu Obeida al Misri, the alleged mastermind of last summer's plot to blow up airliners from Britain to the U.S., but neither was killed in the strike.
Those who died, the source says, were Taliban members from Pakistan.
Eyewitnesses to the attack said two missiles were fired from an unmanned Predator plane at around 5:00 a.m. local time yesterday. They said the drone had been flying overhead all night.
The Pakistani military said yesterday that it was their helicopters, not a U.S. drone, that fired the missiles.
The Pakistani intelligence service believes Zawahiri has been boxed into a 40-square-mile area in the Bajaur region, near the Afghan border.
Alexis Debat is an ABC News consultant.