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Monday, April 19, 2010

Top Al Qaeda Leaders Killed In Iraq

BAGHDAD — The U.S. and Iraq claimed a major victory against al-Qaida on Monday, saying their forces killed the terror group's two top figures in this country in an air and ground assault on their safehouse near Saddam Hussein's hometown.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced the killings of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri at a news conference and showed photographs of their bloody corpses. U.S. military officials later confirmed the deaths, which Vice President Joe Biden called a "potentially devastating blow" to al-Qaida in Iraq.
The organization has proven resilient in the past, showing a remarkable ability to change tactics and adapt – most notably after its brutal founder, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed nearly four years ago in a U.S. airstrike. Still, some analysts contend, the group was far stronger then and would likely have a harder time now replenishing its leadership and sticking to a timetable of attacks.
"The death of these terrorists is potentially the most significant blow to al-Qaida in Iraq since the beginning of the insurgency," Gen. Raymond Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said in a statement.
Al-Qaida in Iraq has remained a dangerous force as the U.S. prepares to withdraw most of its troops. The terror group has launched repeated attacks on civilian targets in Baghdad in an attempt to sow chaos and exploit political deadlock in the wake of the inconclusive March 7 parliamentary elections.
Monday's announcement comes at a critical time for al-Maliki, who has staked his reputation on being the man who can restore stability to Iraq after years of bloodshed. The prime minister is locked in a tight contest with secular challenger Ayad Allawi to see who will form the next government. Al-Maliki's coalition trails Allawi's bloc by two seats in the 325-seat parliament, and neither has yet been able to secure enough support from other parties to muster a majority.
Mark Hosenball Apr 19, 2010 12:53 PM
U.S. intelligence and defense officials say "indications" have reached Washington appearing to substantiate claims by the Iraqi government that its security forces over the weekend killed the two most senior leaders of Al Qaeda's Iraqi affiliate. However, given the fact that in the past similar claims sometimes turned out to be premature—in that Qaeda operatives who had been allegedly killed miraculously came back to life—some American officials remain cautious, saying they don't have 100 percent confirmation that the Iraqi government's reports are true.
According to a press release issued by the U.S. military, U.S. forces supported Iraqi forces on Sunday when they claim to have killed the two Al Qaeda leaders in a night-time raid on the safehouse where they were hiding, 10 kilometers south of Tikrit, former hometown of the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. The official statement identified the two dead Iraqi leaders as Abu Ayyub al-Masri, also known as Abu Hamzah al-Muhajir, an Egyptian who supposedly is the military commander of Al Qaeda in Iraq, and Hamid Dawud Muhammad Khalil al-Zawi, otherwise known as Abu Umar al-Baghdadi, whom Iraqi authorities say served as leader of a shadow Iraqi government which Al Qaeda had set up called the Islamic State of Iraq. Zawi supposedly held the title "Prince of the Faithful" among Al Qaeda followers.

Iraqi authorities said that Abu Ayyub al-Masri had replaced Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the notoriously bloodthirsty Jordanian jihadist who built up Al Qaeda in Iraq after the American invasion in 2003, after Zarqawi was killed in June of 2006. The authorities claimed Masri had been "directly responsible for high profile bombings and attacks against the people of Iraq."More


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