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U.S. forces kill a senior al-Qaida in Iraq figure
The Islamic State of Iraq confirmed in an Internet statement that Muharib Abdul-Latif al-Jubouri had been killed.
BAGHDAD -- U.S.-led forces killed a top al-Qaida in Iraq figure linked to kidnappings of a Christian Science Monitor reporter and other Westerners, the military said Thursday as mourners gathered at the slain terrorist's home in a Sunni insurgent stronghold north of Baghdad.
The U.S. Embassy, meanwhile, said a rocket attack on the Green Zone killed four Asian contractors Wednesday, the third straight day that extremists fired rockets or mortars at the U.S.-controlled area.
The announcement of the death of al-Qaida propagandist Muharib Abdul-Latif al-Jubouri came after days of conflicting reports from the Iraqi government that the top leaders of the terror group and its front organization -- the Islamic State of Iraq -- had been killed.
Chief spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said the military did not have the bodies of al-Qaida boss Abu Ayyub al-Masri or Islamic State leader Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and did not know "of anybody that does."
Caldwell said the confusion apparently stemmed from misunderstandings among Iraqi security forces as al-Jubouri's body was being moved across Baghdad after it was released to his tribe. But he played down implications that it was a symptom of a broader problem of communication between U.S. and Iraqi forces, saying instead it showed that the Iraqis were doing their jobs.
"They at least knew that they had somebody who was very significant," he said, adding that was "a very positive thing."
The Islamic State of Iraq confirmed in an Internet statement that al-Jubouri, whom it called its official spokesman, had been killed. It denied the deaths of al-Baghdadi and al-Masri.
Al-Jubouri was believed to have been deeply involved in the kidnapping of Jill Carroll, the Christian Science Monitor reporter who was released unharmed, and Tom Fox of Clear Brook, Va., one of four men from the Chicago-based peace group Christian Peacemaker Teams who was found shot to death in Baghdad on March 10, 2006, he said. He was also involved in the kidnapping of two Germans in January 2006, Caldwell said.
Caldwell said al-Jubouri helped facilitate Carroll's transport from one location to another and was believed to have been the last known person to have custody of Fox before he was killed. The Monitor later reported that Carroll did not recognize a photo of al-Jubouri that the military provided.
Al-Jubouri was arrested in 2003 by the U.S. and freed a year later, Caldwell said. A man who claimed to be a relative said al-Jubouri, in his mid-30s and a father of four, deepened his involvement with insurgents after his release. The relative spoke on condition of anonymity out of concern for his own safety.
Caldwell said al-Jubouri had worked in Syria, where he allegedly helped smuggle foreign fighters and funds into Iraq until he returned to the country in September.
Al-Jubouri was killed early Tuesday during an operation dubbed "Rat Trap" about four miles west of the Taji, a town near an air base north of Baghdad, Caldwell said. The body was identified by photos and DNA testing, he said.
On Thursday, mourners gathered at al-Jubouri's house in Duluiyah, 45 miles north of Baghdad, as a huge funeral tent went up in the street, police said.
Caldwell said 87 militants were killed and 465 people of interest detained in 139 operations against the group in April.
U.S. and Iraqi forces have stepped up operations against the terrorist network following a series of car bombings and suicide attacks that have killed hundreds in recent weeks despite the 11-week-old operation in Baghdad and surrounding areas.
At least 52 people were killed or found dead in Iraq on Thursday, including four in mortar attacks in different parts of Baghdad and two in a parked car bombing that also wounded more than 30 in the oil-rich northern city of Kirkuk.
The U.S. Embassy statement gave no other details about Wednesday's attack that killed the four contractors in the Green Zone -- two from India, one from the Philippines and one from Nepal.
The Green Zone houses the U.S. and British embassies, Iraq's parliament and other key government offices and is considered the safest area of the city despite occasional shelling.
Two Americans -- a contractor and a soldier -- were killed in March in a rocket attack on the area. Two suicide vests were found unexploded in the Green Zone less than a week after that.
The adequacy of security in the area also came into question after the April 12 suicide bombing in the parliament building's dining hall. One lawmaker was killed in the blast, which was claimed by the al-Qaida-led amalgam of Sunni insurgents.
On Wednesday, Rear Adm. Mark Fox, a U.S. military spokesman, said the latest round of Green Zone attacks appeared to be part of a strategy by extremists "to score a spectacular hit or try to obtain some sort of a headline-grabbing direct hit."
Many believe such violence will continue until the ruling Shiites give minority Sunnis a greater share of power and Iraq's oil wealth.
On Thursday, Sunni politicians accused Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of refusing to share power. The National Accordance Front, which has 44 of parliament's 275 seats, issued a strongly worded statement on the opening day of a major international conference on Iraq in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheik in a bid to remind the world of what the group sees as the gross failings of al-Maliki's government.