Two Iraq Al Qaeda leaders killed: Did they really get Abu Omar al-Baghdadi?
US and Iraqi officials say DNA evidence proves they killed Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the key link between Al Qaeda internationally and its offshoot in Iraq, and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the senior Iraqi member of the group. But one analyst is skeptical.
The death of a top Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) leader could sever a link between Al Qaeda headquarters and its Iraqi offshoot but the identity of a second figure previously announced to have been killed appears far from clear.Skip to next paragraph
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Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki on Monday announced that Iraqi and US forces had killed Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri, an Egyptian believed to have ties to Al Qaeda leadership, in a rocket attack on their safe house in northern Iraq on Sunday. At the time of the killing of Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in 2006, US officials said he had been replaced by Mr. Masri, who they said had fought and trained with the group in Afghanistan prior to the US invasion of Iraq.
Mr. Baghdadi, the leader of the self-declared Islamic State of Iraq, is believed to be a pseudonym for Hamid Dawud Muhammad Khalil al-Zawi, an Iraqi ex-Army officer who is said to have come from a number of different places, including Haditha in western Anbar Province. "Al-Bagdhadi" means "from Baghdad."
Iraqi authorities announced last year they had killed Baghdadi, a claim never verified by the US military, which has said in the past that the person attributed to the name might be fictitious – a composite figure to put an Iraqi face on Al Qaeda's operations in Iraq. Prime Minister Maliki said today that insurgents had attributed the name to various fighters over the years to sow confusion among US and Iraqi forces, but that the man killed today was the "original" Baghdadi.
“Al Baghdadi was initially assessed to be a fictional character, however, reporting has proven otherwise,” US Army Maj. Gen. Steve Lanza wrote in an e-mail. He said Baghdadi was the senior Iraqi member of AQI and acted as an emissary for Masri and had support from senior Al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan. The military did not address how it knew that Mr. Zawi was Baghdadi.
Lanza wrote that Iraqi and US forces determined that two of the four people killed in the attack were Masri and Zawi through DNA testing, photo identification, finger print verification, and known scars.