updated 3/2/2008 12:21:20 PM ET 2008-03-02T17:21:20

A U.S. military helicopter fired a guided missile to kill a wanted Saudi Arabian al-Qaida in Iraq leader who was believed responsible for the bombing deaths of five American soldiers, a military spokesman said.

U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Gregory Smith said Jar Allah, also known as Abu Yasir al-Saudi, and another Saudi known only as Hamdan, were both killed Wednesday in Mosul. Al-Saudi headed up the al-Qaida network in southeast Mosul, an insurgent hotbed where U.S forces wage daily battles against the group.

According to the military, al-Saudi conducted numerous attacks against Iraqi and U.S. forces, including a Jan. 28 bombing that killed the five U.S. soldiers.

In that attack, insurgents blasted a U.S. patrol with a roadside bomb and showered survivors with gunfire from a mosque. The soldiers died in the explosion _ the deadliest on American forces since six soldiers perished Jan. 9 in a booby-trapped house north of Baghdad.

Intelligence gathered in the area led the U.S. military to al-Saudi, who was in a car with Hamdan. A precision helicopter strike killed both and destroyed their vehicle. U.S. forces then confirmed the men's identities.

Al-Saudi is said to have been a close associate of al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri and to have arrived in Mosul with a group of foreign fighters in August 2007 after spending time fighting in Afghanistan.

"Mosul is a critical crossroads for al-Qaida in Iraq. It is their strategic center of gravity. One-half to two-thirds of attacks in Iraq today are in and around Mosul," Smith said.

Smith said the deaths brought to 142 the number of al-Qaida insurgents killed or captured since the beginning of the year.

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