U.S. military officials confirm that Al Qaeda in Iraq’s leader, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, was killed in an attack on the house where he had holed up in the Iraqi city Thar-Thar, 50 miles west of Baghdad. Also killed in the joint Iraqi-U.S. raid was Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, leader of the al-Qaeda affiliated group the Islamic State of Iraq.
Over at the Long War Journal, Bill Roggio provides some good background info on al-Masri. He was hand selected by Ayman al Zawahari to take command of al Qaeda in Iraq after a U.S. air strike killed its founder, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, in 2006. Roggio says the deaths of al-Masri and Baghdadi come on the heels of a series of strikes against AQI’s leadership ranks over the past four months.
“The death of these terrorists is potentially the most significant blow to al-Qaeda in Iraq since the beginning of the insurgency,” said Iraq commander, Gen. Ray Odierno, in a press release on the U.S. Forces Iraq web site. The release says that a U.S. soldier died in a helicopter crash during the raid.