The United States has come close to taking out al Qaeda’s second-in-command on more occasions than have previously been acknowledged, according to current and former U.S. officials.

In February 2003, Ayman al-Zawahiri apparently met in Peshawar, Pakistan, with another senior al Qaeda leader whom the CIA was pursuing at the time. But according to the officials, the agency did not have a firm location for Khalid Sheihk Mohammed until it received a tip the following day enabling the Pakistanis to capture Mohammed in another city.

The alleged mastermind of the 9/11 terrorist attacks is now being held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay. Former analyst Michael Scheuer, who headed the CIA’s bin Laden unit, said the agency did not find out about al-Zawahiri meeting with Mohammed until after the fact.

A U.S. official said the working assumption early on was that al-Zawahiri moved around Pakistan, meeting frequently with senior al Qaeda operatives in various locations. The official said if al-Zawahiri’s precise whereabouts had been known at the time, action would have been taken against him.

Source: Pam Benson for CNN.

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The United States has come close to taking out al Qaeda's second-in-command on more…