Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Allies kill third Al-Qaeda leader in Iraq Raid

By QASSSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA Irish Times IRAQI and United States troops killed a regional leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq in an early morning raid yesterday, as security forces continue to put pressure on the terrorist organisation following the reported deaths of its two top-ranking figures over the weekend, officials said. Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri were killed in a joint operation on Sunday in what US vice-president Joe Biden called a "potentially devastating blow" to al-Qaeda in Iraq. The intelligence that led to the elusive leaders' desert safehoADVERTISEMENTuse six miles south-west of Tikrit came from the same source – a senior al-Qaeda operative captured last month – that produced the information leading to yesterday's raid, according to a senior Iraqi military intelligence officer who supervised both operations. The killing of the al-Qaeda figures comes at a critical moment for Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has staked his reputation on being the man who can restore stability to Iraq after years of bloodshed. Me Maliki's coalition came second in March's national election, but neither he nor his main rival has been able to muster enough support to form a new government. The intelligence officer said Mr Maliki personally oversaw the operations, and received daily briefings from him. In yesterday's raid, American and Iraqi joint forces launched a morning attack in the northern province of Ninevah, killing suspected insurgent leader Ahmed al-Obeidi, Iraqi military spokesman Major-General Qassim al-Moussawi said. Maj-Gen Al-Moussawi said the insurgent who was killed – known as Abu Suhaib – was in charge of al-Qaeda in Iraq's operations in the provinces of Kirkuk, Salahuddin and Ninevah. Iraqi and US troops routinely share intelligence information, and it was an American tip – which then generated more information from Iraqi informants – that led authorities to the isolated desert area outside Tikrit where Masri and Baghdadi were hiding, according to a US official.

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