Key Al Qaeda leader killed in Iraq raid, US military confirms
BAGHDAD - A key Al Qaeda in Iraq figure involved in smuggling hundreds of suicide bombers across the border from Syria has been killed in a raid in northern Iraq, the US military said yesterday.
The military called the death a blow to the insurgent organization in Iraq, but acknowledged it remains very much capable of carrying out well-planned, coordinated assaults with large body counts.
A series of attacks against three hotels and a police crime lab in Baghdad this week killed dozens.
The US military said it had confirmed the identity of the operative through fingerprints and other means.
The man was identified as Saad Uwayid Obeid Mijbil al-Shammari, also known as Abu Khalaf, the military said in a statement.
Abu Khalaf was killed Jan. 22 during a joint US-Iraqi raid in the northern city of Mosul, about 60 miles from the Syrian border. He was killed after he broke free from his restraints and attacked his guard, the military said.
He was believed to have been moving foreign fighters across the border since 2006, the same year a US air strike killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the founder of Al Qaeda in Iraq.
The military said he also worked as a financier, gathering and distributing money and weapons to Al Qaeda throughout the country.
Earlier this week, General Raymond Odierno, the top US commander in Iraq, said intelligence indicated there were five to 10 main insurgent leaders planning the attacks in Baghdad.
Odierno also said there has been a decline in the number of foreign fighters crossing from Syria into Iraq, citing political pressure from Damascus and beefed-up security along the border.
In an interview yesterday, Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani of Iraq said Al Qaeda has been hampered by the decreased number of foreign fighters.
“The decline in the infiltration of terrorists has weakened Al Qaeda. But we think that Al Qaeda and other networks linked to it are still able to carry out some operations,’’ Bolani said.