The U.S. military said Saturday it killed a senior al-Qaida in Iraq leader suspected of masterminding one of the deadliest bombings in Baghdad as well as recent attacks and the 2006 videotaped execution of a kidnapped Russian official.
American troops also killed the man's wife after a firefight as they tried to capture him Friday in the northern neighborhood of Azamiyah in Baghdad, the military said.
Mahir Ahmad Mahmud al-Zubaydi, also known as Abu Assad or Abu Rami, allegedly directed the insurgent cell believed to be responsible for nearly simultaneous car bomb and suicide attacks Thursday, according to the statement.
Iraqi police and hospital officials have said some two dozen people were killed in Thursday's attacks targeting two Shiite mosques in Baghdad.
The victims were attending prayers marking Eid al-Fitr, the religious holiday that comes at the end of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan.
Death would be major blow to group
Al-Zubaydi was one of the most senior insurgents to be killed by U.S. forces as they seek to shore up recent security gains that have driven the level of violence to its lowest point in more than four years.
His death would be a major blow to al-Qaida in Iraq even as the group's recruiting efforts have been "severely curbed" by a decision by many Sunnis to join forces with the Americans in the fight against it, military spokesman Rear Adm. Patrick Driscoll said.
"His removal from the AQI network will send shockwaves through Baghdad's terrorist bombing networks," Driscoll said in the statement.
The military also blamed al-Zubaydi for responsible for several car bombings and mortar attacks in Baghdad's main Shiite district of Sadr City in 2006 and 2007, including a series of blasts that killed more than 200 people on Nov. 23, 2006.
That was one of the deadliest attacks to strike the Iraqi capital amid rampant sectarian violence and attacks against U.S. forces.
Link to abduction, killing of Russians
Al-Zubaydi also was believed to have planned and participated in abductions and videotaped executions, including one in which he is personally seen shooting one of four kidnapped Russians, according to the statement.
The Russian embassy workers were abducted in June 2006 after an attack on their car in Baghdad's Mansour neighborhood. They were later killed, along with a fifth Russian.
The military also said al-Zubaydi also was reportedly responsible for a May 1 car bombing that killed a U.S. soldier in Baghdad, as well as attacks in Salahuddin and Diyala provinces to the north of the capital.
The military said al-Zubaydi was originally a member of the Sunni insurgent group Ansar al-Islam and joined al-Qaida in Iraq in 2004.
He was the terror network's military "emir" in eastern Baghdad "before taking over responsibility for all terrorist operations there this year," the military said.
The statement said the information about al-Zubaydi came from detained insurgents.
On Friday, U.S. troops came under fire after surrounded a building that was said to be housing al-Zubaydi in Azamiyah, a mainly Sunni neighborhood in northern Baghdad.
"Acting in self-defense, coalition forces returned fire, killing Abu Rami and a female," the statement said. Tech. Sgt. Chris Stagner, another U.S. military spokesman, said the woman was al-Zubaydi's wife and was not a suspect.
The American troops then evacuated several children from the house before destroying ordnance inside in a controlled detonation that set fire to the building, the military said, adding it evacuated surrounding buildings as a precaution while the blaze was extinguished.