Irak — Combined Operation Kills Top al-Qaida in Iraq Leaders

BAGHDAD, April 19, 2010 — Iraqi secu­ri­ty forces, sup­port­ed by U.S. troops, killed the two most-senior lead­ers of al-Qai­da in Iraq ear­ly yes­ter­day in the cul­mi­na­tion of a series of com­bined oper­a­tions south­west of Tikrit, Iraq.

Abu Hamzah al-Muha­jir, also known as Abu Ayyub al-Mas­ri, who was the mil­i­tary leader of al-Qai­da in Iraq, was killed in one of the oper­a­tions. His ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion is respon­si­ble for facil­i­tat­ing attacks against Iraq and coali­tion forces as well as Iraqi civil­ians. He replaced Abu Musab al-Zar­qawi when Zar­qawi was killed in June 2006, and he was direct­ly respon­si­ble for high-pro­file bomb­ings and attacks against the peo­ple of Iraq, offi­cials said.

Also killed dur­ing the engage­ment was Hamid Dawud Muham­mad Khalil al-Zawi, also known as Abu Umar al-Bagh­da­di, who served al-Qai­da in Iraq as the leader of the group’s self-pro­claimed Islam­ic State of Iraq and held the title “Prince of the Faith­ful.”

The death of these two ter­ror­ists is a poten­tial­ly dev­as­tat­ing blow to al-Qai­da in Iraq, offi­cials said.

A series of Iraqi-led com­bined oper­a­tions con­duct­ed over the last week result­ed in Iraqi forces exe­cut­ing a night­time raid with U.S. sup­port on the ter­ror­ist lead­ers’ safe house. The com­bined secu­ri­ty team iden­ti­fied both al-Qai­da in Iraq mem­bers, and the ter­ror­ists were killed after engag­ing the secu­ri­ty team, offi­cials said.

Masri’s assis­tant and Baghdadi’s son, who also were involved in ter­ror­ist activ­i­ties, also were killed.

After con­duct­ing pre­lim­i­nary ques­tion­ing and ini­tial exam­i­na­tion of the evi­dence dur­ing the oper­a­tion, Iraqi ele­ments arrest­ed 16 addi­tion­al sus­pect­ed crim­i­nal asso­ciates of the ter­ror­ist lead­ers killed in the raid.

“The death of these ter­ror­ists is poten­tial­ly the most sig­nif­i­cant blow to al-Qai­da in Iraq since the begin­ning of the insur­gency,” said Army Gen. Ray­mond T. Odier­no, com­man­der of U.S. Forces Iraq. “The gov­ern­ment of Iraq intel­li­gence ser­vices and secu­ri­ty forces, sup­port­ed by U.S. intel­li­gence and spe­cial oper­a­tions forces, have over the last sev­er­al months con­tin­ued to degrade [al-Qai­da in Iraq].

“There is still work to do,” the gen­er­al con­tin­ued, “but this is a sig­nif­i­cant step for­ward in rid­ding Iraq of ter­ror­ists. As the [Iraqi gov­ern­ment] con­tin­ues to pro­tect the peo­ple of Iraq, the U.S. stands ready to assist them.”

A U.S. Forces Iraq sol­dier was killed dur­ing the assault when a U.S. heli­copter crashed.

From a U.S. Forces Iraq News Release