ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Government officials yesterday again backed off assertions that they killed or captured a major Al Qaeda fugitive, saying a man they thought had been an intelligence chief for Osama bin Laden's organization actually was a much less senior local figure.
On Monday, army spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan said at a news conference that intelligence sources indicated that the Al Qaeda intelligence chief, whom he named only as Abdullah, had been killed.
Another member of the Pakistani intelligence community said the military was showing photos of Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah -- who is on the FBI most-wanted list -- to captured militants, but none had identified the photo.
Yesterday, Sultan said the man apparently killed in South Waziristan was far less senior.
"Now I can confirm that he was only the head of Al Qaeda's intelligence in Wana," the main town in South Waziristan, Sultan said. He attributed the the mistake to faulty initial intelligence.
Shortly after the siege began March 16, President General Pervez Musharraf said in a television interview that his men had cornered a "high-value" Al Qaeda target, and several senior Pakistani officials said they thought it was bin Laden's number two man, Ayman al-Zawahri.
Authorities later backed off those assertions, saying instead that they had wounded an Uzbek militant with Al Qaeda links named Tahir Yuldash. They say they think Yuldash escaped, possibly through a mile-long tunnel.
There were conflicting accounts among Pakistani intelligence and government officials about whether Abdullah's body had been recovered.