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Al-Qaida leader in Iraq reportedly slain by insurgent

Al-Qaida leader in Iraq reportedly slain by insurgent

The leader of al-Qaida in Iraq was killed yesterday in a fight between insurgents north of Baghdad, the Interior Ministry spokesman said, but U.S. military officials appeared to cast doubt on the report.
There has been growing friction between Sunni Islamist al-Qaida and other Sunni Arab insurgent groups over al-Qaida's indiscriminate killing of civilians and its imposition of an austere brand of Islam in the areas where it holds sway.
If true, Masri's killing would signal a deepening split at a time when the Shiite-led government is trying to woo some insurgent groups into the political process.
Interior Ministry spokesman, Brigadier-General Abdul Kareem Khalaf, told Reuters that Masri was killed in a battle near a bridge in the small town of al-Nibayi, north of Baghdad.
"We have definite intelligence reports that al Masri was killed today," he said.
Both Khalaf and another Interior Ministry source said the Iraqi authorities did not have Masri's body, but the source added that "our people had seen the body."
The U.S. military was checking the reports, said Lieutenant-Colonel Christopher Garver, a spokesman.
"We are in discussions with the Iraqis over how they obtained this intelligence. If we do have a body, we are going to conduct DNA tests, and that will take several days. If there is no body, that makes it harder," Garver said.
Masri, believed to be Egyptian and who is also known as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, assumed the leadership of al-Qaida in Iraq after Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in a U.S. air strike in June 2006.
Officials had hoped the demise of Zarqawi might have weakened al-Qaida, but he was quickly replaced by Masri and the group's attacks continued unabated, pushing Iraq closer to full-scale sectarian civil war.
The United States has a US$5 million bounty on Masri's head.
On the political front, Iraq's main Sunni bloc is considering quitting the Shiite-led government because it believes the concerns of Sunnis are not being addressed, members of the bloc including the vice president said ysterday.
Some members of the Sunni Accordance Front have been urging the bloc for several months to pull out of Shiite Iraq Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's cabinet, partly over accusations that reconciliation with minority Sunni Arabs has moved too slowly.
The bloc has six ministers in the government and a withdrawal would be a blow to Maliki and raise questions about how representative his administration would remain.


Updated : 2021-10-25 12:10 GMT+08:00