ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Intercepted radio conversations indicate Al Qaeda's top intelligence chief may have been killed in fighting in Pakistan, intelligence officials said yesterday, but they acknowledged that no body has been found.
The radio transmissions disclosed that a man named Abdullah had been killed and that the death caused much distress among the Al Qaeda forces, a Pakistani intelligence official said on condition of anonymity.
"He was a very important person for Al Qaeda," the official said. He added that interrogations of suspected Al Qaeda members led the Pakistanis to think Abdullah was the group's top intelligence official.
Pakistan's sweep through western tribal areas to root out suspected terrorists resulted in the deaths of 63 suspected militants and the arrest of 167 others, army spokesman Major General Shaukat Sultan said yesterday.
Another member of Pakistani intelligence said that the military was showing photos of Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah to captured militants, but that none has identified the photo. He said all information was being shared with US intelligence agencies.
Without a body -- and after earlier speculation that Al Qaeda's number two man, Ayman al-Zawahri, was cornered -- the officials were cautious about any conclusions. Many Al Qaeda leaders also use aliases.
Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, who holds an Egyptian passport, was indicted for his alleged involvement in the Aug. 7, 1998, bombings of the US embassies in Nairobi and in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, that killed 231 people, including 12 Americans. He is on the FBI list of the most wanted terrorist and was known to have fled to Pakistan after the 1998 bombings.
Sultan said the army had confirmed Abdullah's death through "independent intelligence sources" but would not say whether it had his body. Abdullah is a very common name in the Islamic world, and it was impossible to know which of many Al Qaeda and other terror suspects Sultan might be referring to.
The military declared Sunday that the operation in South Waziristan was over and that it was a success. But hundreds of other militants were still at large, officials said. Uzbek terrorist leader Tahir Yuldash was reportedly wounded in the assault but escaped.
There were 73 foreigners among the 167 arrested. Sultan did not identify their nationalities, but security officials had said Uzbeks, Chechens, and Arabs were among them.
Sultan said 46 troops were killed and 26 wounded.
Villagers have begun returning home after seeking shelter in Wana and other villages during the operation, when thousands of Pakistani forces battled hundreds of foreign and local militants.
Some angry tribesmen demanded compensation yesterday for property they said was damaged and looted in the operation, Pakistan's biggest and bloodiest to flush out Al Qaeda fugitives.
"I do not know whose rocket hit my house. I do not know who looted my home during the military operation, but I think the government is responsible," said Mohammed Alam, 43, a resident in the Azam Warsak area, which was a focus of the military operation.
Sultan said troops had demolished the homes only of tribesmen who sheltered terrorists, but conceded that some other houses could have come under attack. He denied that looting had occurred.
While Pakistani troops have withdrawn from the target area of the operation, they have not pulled out of South Waziristan.