The Iraqis have announced another big takedown from al-Qaeda, and this time it looks like the US military will confirm the kill. Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the self-proclaimed leader of the Islamic State of Iraq, has gone to meet his 72 virgins, courtesy of a joint US-Iraq operation:
U.S. and Iraqi forces have killed the head of the self-styled Islamic State in Iraq, an al Qaeda-led militant group that has claimed many major attacks in the country, Iraq’s deputy interior minister said on Thursday.
Hussein Kamal said Abu Omar al-Baghdadi had been killed in a battle north of Baghdad. He declined to say when but said authorities had recovered Baghdadi’s body.
“Abu Omar al-Baghdadi was killed north of Baghdad by Iraqi and American forces. He died as a result of wounds sustained in clashes. The Interior Ministry has his body to carry out further checks,” Kamal told Reuters by telephone.
U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Christopher Garver declined to comment but said a news conference would be held later on Thursday to announce the “success” of an operation against Sunni Islamist al Qaeda.
That goes a lot farther than the US was willing to go earlier this week, when the Iraqis announced that Abu Ayyub al-Masri was really, really dead this time. American commanders have thus far declined to confirm al-Masri’s death, which leaves the status of al-Qaeda in Iraq’s leadership somewhat murky. AQI claims that al-Masri is alive, but have released no audio or video of him since the Iraqi Interior Ministry claimed he was killed in some internecine insurgent fighting.
Al-Baghdadi, however, would be even better than al-Masri. He had placed himself at the head of an umbrella organization of insurgent groups affiliated with al-Qaeda; al-Masri was his “war minister”. Baghdadi wanted to try to organize outside of AQ and create an alliance with other Sunni insurgent groups in order to build strength against the elected government of Iraq and the US forces operating there. One of his main objectives was to mend the rift with native Iraqis over the indiscriminate target selection of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and especially al-Masri.
Now it looks like al-Baghdadi won’t get that chance, if US forces confirm his death. It won’t end the fighting, but any time we can take out senior leadership of terrorist networks, it helps.
UPDATE: The US will not confirm al-Baghdadi’s death, but they announced that Muharib Abdul Latif al-Jubouri, AQI’s “senior minister of information”, had been killed:
The U.S. military said on Thursday it had killed a senior al Qaeda official in Iraq who it accused of involvement in the kidnapping of Americans Jill Carroll and Tom Fox and other foreigners.
But the military said it had no information to support claims by Iraq’s Interior Ministry that Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, another senior al Qaeda figure in Iraq, had been killed.
Chief military spokesman Major-General William Caldwell identified Muharib Abdul Latif al-Jubouri, the “senior minister of information” for al Qaeda in Iraq, as a key figure in the separate abductions of Carroll and Fox.
“We killed him … west of Taji on the first day of May,” Caldwell told a news conference, referring to a town north of the capital Baghdad.
If we got all three of these terrorists, that would be wonderful, but Jabouri would be a victory under any circumstances. The momentum continues to favor the bold and the determined. If AQI leaves its senior officials out in the open like this, the network will eventually fall apart.