/ 15 October 2008

Al-Qaeda in Iraq’s number two reported killed

The United States military said on Wednesday that a foreign insurgent killed in the main northern Iraqi city of Mosul this month has been identified as Abu Qaswarah, al-Qaeda’s number two in Iraq.

”Abu Qaswarah, also known as Abu Sara, was the al-Qaeda in Iraq senior leader of northern Iraq,” it said in a statement.

It said Abu Qaswarah, a native of Morocco who was killed in a raid on a building in Mosul on October 5, had ties to al-Qaeda in Iraq’s founder, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed in a US air strike in Iraq in June 2006.

”He was responsible for organising and leading al-Qaeda in Iraq efforts in northern Iraq, including operations against Iraqi and coalition targets in Mosul.”

The US military also said Abu Qaswarah had trained with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and been in contact with senior leaders of the group’s wing in Pakistan.

He directed the movement of foreign terrorists into northern Iraq, a position which he took up in 2007, it said.

There was no independent confirmation of the report.

American commanders see Mosul, the country’s third-largest city, as al-Qaeda’s last urban stronghold in Iraq. The death of Abu Qaswarah would undermine the insurgent group’s capabilities, the US military said.

”Abu Qaswarah’s death will cause a major disruption to the Al-Qaeda in Iraq network, as he played a significant role in tying numerous al-Qaeda links together in order to conduct terrorist activities in Iraq,” it said.

”His death will significantly degrade al-Qaeda in Iraq operations in Mosul and northern Iraq, leaving the network without a leader to oversee and coordinate its operations in the region.”

The US raid on a Mosul building that apparently served as a command and control centre for al-Qaeda also led to the death of four other insurgents as well as three women and three children, the military said in an earlier report.

”As coalition forces entered the building housing the terrorist, they began receiving small-arms fire. Coalition forces returned fire once engaged,” it said. ”A terrorist detonated a suicide vest shortly thereafter in the house … Five terrorists along with three women and three children were killed.”

Over the past few days religiously mixed but troubled Mosul has grabbed headlines after a series of murders of Christians that prompted thousands in the minority group to abandon their homes.

Although nobody has claimed responsibility for the ethnic violence, US military spokesperson Rear Admiral Patrick Driscoll on Wednesday blamed al-Qaeda, calling it ”typical” of the network.

Also this month, US forces killed a suspected al-Qaeda militant believed to have planned some of the deadliest bombings in Baghdad and to have killed a group of Russian diplomats in 2006.

Mahir Ahmad Mahmud al-Zubaydi, also known as Abu Assad or Abu Rami, was killed along with an unnamed woman in Baghdad’s Sunni district of Adhamiyah on Friday, the military said.

It said Abu Rami’s group was responsible for suicide bombings in Baghdad on October 9. — Sapa-AFP