updated 1/15/2006 12:34:58 PM ET 2006-01-15T17:34:58

The FBI anticipates performing DNA tests on the victims of a purported CIA airstrike in Pakistan that apparently targeted al-Qaida’s second-in-command, a law enforcement official said Saturday.

At least 17 people were killed in the airstrike on Damadola, near the Afghan border. Senior Pakistani officials told The Associated Press that the CIA acted on erroneous information in launching the attack early Friday, and that Ayman al-Zawahri was not among the dead.

In Washington, Pentagon, State Department, National Security Council and intelligence officials did not immediately provide additional details about the attack.

DNA tests to determine the victims’ identities are expected to be conducted in the United States, according to the law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because a formal request for such testing had not been made public.

Up to 11 extremists were believed to be among the dead, according to unidentified Pakistani officials quoted in news reports. However, survivors of the attack in Damadola denied that militants were there.

A Pakistani intelligence officer told the AP that some bodies were taken away for DNA tests.

The U.S. government has issued a $25 million bounty for al-Zawahri, considered by Western authorities to be a close associate to Osama bin Laden. Like bin Laden, al-Zawahri is believed to have been hiding along the rugged Pakistan-Afghan frontier since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The FBI laboratory in Quantico, Va., has extensive DNA research capabilities and provides that expertise to the Defense Department and other government agencies.

A counterterrorism official said that if al-Zawahri were killed, which is not yet known, it would be a devastating blow to al-Qaida. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the information.

The official said the group’s leaders have shown themselves to be fairly resilient when other al-Qaida lieutenants were killed or captured, but that al-Zawahri’s death would be much tougher to endure.

Al-Zawahri has been the public face of al-Qaida. Last year, bin Laden took a lower profile and delegated much authority to al-Zawahri to conduct al-Qaida’s operations.

Bin Laden also didn’t make a single public statement in 2005. Instead, his top deputy appeared in video and audio recordings.

Associated Press writers Katherine Shrader and Mark Sherman in Washington and Riaz Khan in Pakistan contributed to this report.

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