That’s right, put a big fat question mark at the end of that sentence, because so far the only source on record for that assertion comes from the Iraqi Interior Ministry, which has a track record of overenthusiasm with kill reports. Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the successor to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, reportedly died in a battle today with other insurgents:
The leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, was killed on Tuesday in an internal fight between insurgents, the Interior Ministry spokesman said, but the U.S. military said it could not confirm the report.
Spokesman Brigadier-General Abdul Kareem Khalaf told Reuters: “We have definite intelligence reports that al Masri was killed today.” He said the battle happened near a bridge in the small town of al-Nibayi, north of Baghdad.
Another source in the ministry said Masri had been killed in what he described as “probably score-settling within al Qaeda itself.”
Both Khalaf and the ministry source said the authorities did not have Masri’s body, but the source added “our people had seen the body.”
They’ve seen the body, but they haven’t performed the DNA check yet. That recalls the situation in February, when the Iraqi Interior Ministry claimed to have captured al-Masri, and later turned out to be wrong. Presumably, someone saw a live “body” that time, too.
When will we know for sure? When the American military announces it, we can rely on the information, and not before. However, if it turns out to be true, it will show just how badly the tables have turned on AQI. We captured the man who would have replaced al-Masri last year, captured 17 of their people just three days ago, and now possibly have found the body of al-Masri himself. The means of his death will send a message to AQI from the Iraqi people, and I guarantee the last word will be Off.
That’s if this is al-Masri. I’m willing to wait for the official scorer to count the goal.