WASHINGTON President Bush on Monday praised Pakistan's commitment to fighting extremists along its deteriorating border with Afghanistan, only hours after a U.S. missile strike destroyed what U.S. and Pakistani officials described as a militant outpost in the region, killing at least six fighters.
Bush, meeting with Pakistan's prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, at the White House, sought to minimize growing concerns that Pakistan's willingness to fight extremists was waning, allowing the Taliban and al-Qaida to regroup inside Pakistan and plan new attacks there and beyond.
Senior U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice four days ago, have publicly scolded Pakistan for not doing more to root out safe havens like the one bombed Monday in Azam Warsak, a village in South Waziristan near the Afghan border.
Among those believed to have been killed in the attack, evidently carried out by a pilotless aircraft operated by the CIA, was an Egyptian identified as a senior al-Qaida trainer and weapons expert, according to residents and officials in the area, as well as U.S. officials.
The officials spoke anonymously because of the political and diplomatic sensitivities of attacking targets in Pakistan.
The operative, identified as Midhat Mursi al-Sayid Umar, also known as Abu Khabab al-Masri, appears on the State Department's list of 37 most-wanted terrorists, with a reward of $5 million for his capture. He is said to be the man who designed the explosives that Richard C. Reid, the so-called shoe bomber, hid in his sneakers during a failed attempt to blow up an airliner on a flight from Paris to Miami in 2001.
There was no confirmation of his death, however.
Neither Bush nor Gilani discussed the U.S. strike inside Pakistan, nor recent episodes like the U.S. bombing of a border post in June that killed 11 Pakistani soldiers and inflamed anti-American sentiment.