From Hindu (India’s National Newspaper – It’s not been picked up yet by US Wires)
DUBAI: The Iraqi Interior Ministry has claimed that the head of Al-Qaeda in Iraq has been killed in infighting between rival camps.
The Ministry said Abu Ayyub al-Masri was killed on Monday in an “internal battle” in north Baghdad. “There were clashes within the groups of Al-Qaeda. He [Al-Masri] was liquidated by them. Our forces had nothing to do with it,” Interior Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Abdel Karim Khalaf said.
Al-Masri, believed to be an Egyptian, had succeeded Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, who was killed in an American air strike in June 2006. Al-Qaeda has been blamed for some of most heinous sectarian strikes in Iraq.
The U.S. military command has so far not confirmed Al-Masri’s killing. “I hope it’s true, we’re checking, but we’re going to be doubly sure before we can confirm anything,” Lieutenant Colonel Chris Garver, the military spokesman, said. He pointed out that there had been previous occasions when reports about Al-Masri’s death proved incorrect.
The inability of the Iraqi or American security forces to recover Al-Masri’s body has also been a complicating factor. “We are in discussions with the Iraqis over how they obtained this intelligence. If we do have a body, we are going to conduct DNA tests, and that will take several days. If there is no body, that makes it harder,” Lt. Col. Garver observed.
Also known as Abu Hamza Al-Mujahir, Al-Masri was allegedly trained in Afghanistan. He is accused of forming Al-Qaeda’s first cell in Iraq.
Analysts point out that if the report about the internal feud is true, it would confirm previous assertions that Al-Qaeda in Iraq could be splintering.
A few things of note. I had heard this report this morning in the news broadcast. It seems that there is a slight shift in the mood towards the Al-Qaeda movement within the Shia and Sunni militias, who are upset by the rising number of Iraqis being killed in the past month during Al-Qaedas counter-counter insurgency. This also resulted in 104 US Army deaths, the highest number since last December in April. Growing tension between these two groups towards Al-Qaeda would be a rather positive development, as the vast number of attacks are instigated by their operatives. In the past, both sides had been cooperating passively with Al-Qaeda operations by allowing operatives free movement within sectors controlled by the various militias, however there have been increased reports of skirmishes occurring more often between Al Qaeda and the rival militias than amongst themselves.