Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced Monday that the two leaders of the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq have been killed.
In a televised news conference, Maliki said Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the head of the Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella group that includes al Qaeda in Iraq, were found dead in a ditch after an air strike conducted by American forces.
American officials did not immediately confirm the death of the top insurgent leaders, and there was no way to independently verify the claim. In the past, Iraqi officials have announced the capture or killing of top al-Qaeda in Iraq leaders who later turned out to be free and very much alive.
Iraqi officials said last summer that Baghdadi, a shadowy figure who some U.S. intelligence officials have long suspected is a fictionalized character, was in custody. They supported that claim with a video and photos of the alleged insurgent.
U.S. intelligence officials say non-Iraqi leaders of the Islamic State of Iraq created the myth of Baghdadi to bolster the group's standing in a deeply nationalistic country. Recent audio messages posted on insurgent Web sites have been attributed to him. In the statements, the organization has vowed to continue attacking state symbols and entities that support it. It had threatened to derail the parliamentary elections that were held March 7.
According to the NYTimes....
After Mr. Maliki’s press conference, the American military released a statement verifying that Mr. Baghdadi was killed in a joint raid between Iraqi and United States forces in the dark hours of Sunday morning near Tikrit, nearMore information can be found over @ the ’s hometown. Also killed, according to Mr. Maliki and American officials, was Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, also known as Al Qeada in Mesopotamia, a largely Iraqi group that includes some foreign leadership. Both men were found in a hole in the ground. LWJ and the CT Blog....