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Al Qaeda killings show growing competence of Iraqi Army

Iraqi Army is being credited for finding and killing two top figures with Al Qaeda in Iraq, including leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri.

By Gordon LuboldStaff writer / April 19, 2010

In this June 15, 2006, file photo, a US soldier at a press conference in Baghdad stands by a photograph that purports to show Abu Ayyub al-Masri, who was the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq. He was killed by the Iraqi Army Sunday, according to US and Iraqi officials.

Karim Kadim/AP/File

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Washington

The US is heralding the killing of two top al-Qaeda leaders in Iraq as a reflection of just how mature Iraqi security forces - including the Iraqi Army - are becoming, suggesting the incident could be hugely significant to the future security of Iraq. But some experts are still taking a wait-and-see approach.

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US officials confirmed Monday that Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the head of Al Qaeda Iraq, and a mysterious colleague, Abu Umar al-Baghdadi, were killed in a joint US-Iraqi operation west of Tikrit on Sunday.

News reports of the deaths of senior militant leaders in Iraq, Afghanistan, or elsewhere rarely draw immediate confirmation and then praise from the US military and other government leaders. But it appeared that, as the US confronts drawing down its forces during the next four months, it was ready to trumpet the news.

“Their deaths are potentially devastating blows to Al Qaeda Iraq,” said Vice President Joe Biden in a statement to the media in the briefing room of the White House Monday.

'Iraqis have taken the lead'

Mr. Biden said the capture represents the changing character of the Iraqi security forces, based on their own intelligence gleaned from a capture of another Al Qaeda leader recently.

“In short, the Iraqis have taken the lead in securing Iraq and its citizens by taking out both of these individuals,” Biden said.

In another rare public statement, Gen. David Petraeus, head of US Central Command, echoed Biden's conclusions: “Their deaths constitute another major milestone in the effort to defeat extremism in Iraq.”

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