A senior Al-Qaeda leader killed in Iraq: US military

WASHINGTON - A senior leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq was killed in a US air strike in Iraq this week, a US military commander said Friday, calling it a key loss to the group's inner circle of foreign fighters.

Brigadier General Joseph Anderson identified the man as Abu Usama al-Tunisi, a Tunisian described as a close associate and likely successor to Abu Ayyub al-Masri, Al-Qaeda in Iraq's Egyptian leader.

Anderson, who is chief of staff of the Multi-National Corp Iraq, said Tunisi was killed September 25 in an air strike that followed a series of raids that had netted other associates of Tunisi.

"Abu Usama al-Tunisi was one of the most senior leaders within in Al-Qaeda in Iraq," Anderson said.

The US military learned that he was meeting with other Al-Qaeda in Iraq members southwest of Baghdad in the vicinity of Musayyib.

"United States Air Force F-16 aircraft attacked the target," Anderson told reporters here via video linkup from Baghdad.

"Reporting indicated that several Al-Qaeda members with ties to senior leadership were present at that time. Three were killed, including Tunisi," he said.

"His presence was confirmed by one of the two detainees from the operation, one who left the target area just prior to the air strike, who we eventually captured minutes later," he said.

09/28/2007 15:38 GMT

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