Image: Mouwafak al-Rubaie, Abu Ayyub al-Masri
Hadi Mizban  /  AP
National Security Adviser Mouwafak al-Rubaie presents a video showing the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, in Baghdad on Sunday.
updated 10/5/2006 5:41:28 AM ET 2006-10-05T09:41:28

Iraqi officials are performing DNA tests on a slain militant to determine if he is al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the deputy interior minister said Thursday. But the U.S. military said it was “highly unlikely” the terror chief had been killed.

An Iraqi Defense Ministry spokesman, Mohammed al-Askari, told Al-Arabiya television that the body “is not that of al-Masri.” But he did not say whether the DNA testing had been completed.

U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Barry Johnson said a number of al-Qaida suspects were killed in a recent raid in western Anbar province and initially “we thought there was a possibility al-Masri was among them.”

“As we did further analysis, we determined that it was highly unlikely that he was killed,” Johnson told The Associated Press.

Deputy Interior Minister Maj. Gen. Hussein Kamal said the raid took place two days ago. Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera television reported that the militants were killed by U.S. forces during a raid near Haditha.

“We suspect one of those killed is Abu Ayyub al-Masri. We are holding DNA tests to find out if he is,” Kamal told the AP.

He and Johnson did not give further details.

'Critical target'
Al-Masri, also known as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, took over al-Qaida in Iraq after Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed June 7 in a U.S. airstrike northeast of Baghdad.

On Sunday, Iraq’s national security adviser, Mouwafak al-Rubaie, told reporters U.S. and Iraqi forces were closing in on al-Masri.

But on Wednesday, U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. Willian Caldwell sounded more skeptical.

“I’d love to tell you we’re going to get him tonight,” he told reporters. “But, obviously, that’s a very key, critical target for all of us operating here in Iraq. ... We feel very comfortable that we’re continuing to move forward very deliberately in an effort to find him and kill or capture him.”

Caldwell said a personal assistant to al-Masri had been captured in a Sept. 28 raid in Baghdad, the second figure close to the al-Qaida in Iraq chief to be captured that month. “We’re obviously gleaning some key critical information from those individuals and others that have been picked up,” he said.

U.S. officials said al-Masri joined an extremist group led by al-Qaida’s No.2 official in 1982. He joined al-Qaida training camps in Afghanistan in 1999 and trained as a car bombing expert before traveling to Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments