The spiritual leader of the most active insurgency group in Iraq, Tawhid and Jihad, has been killed in a U.S. airstrike and his Jordanian family is preparing a wake, a Jordanian newspaper and Islamic clerics said Wednesday.
Sheik Abu Anas al-Shami, 35, was killed when a missile hit the car he was traveling in on Friday in the west Baghdad suburb of Abu-Ghraib, said the clerics, who have close ties to the family. They spoke on condition of anonymity.
Al-Shami was an aide to Tawhid and Jihad's leader, the Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The al-Qaida-linked group is blamed for some of the biggest attacks in Iraq, such as the bombing of the U.N. headquarters last year, and the beheadings of foreign hostages. Al-Zarqawi is believed to have personally decapitated the American hostage Eugene Armstrong on Monday.
Al-Shami, a Jordanian of Palestinian extraction who was also known as Omar Yousef Jumah, was believed to be the voice on several audio tapes that Tawhid and Jihad released via the Internet. In one such tape in August, a speaker identified as al-Shami said the militants planned to kill Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, soldiers and police officers.
"We will not allow you to destroy our hopes in this blessed holy war, and we will not let you steal our bright tomorrow, which is now appearing on the horizon," the speaker said on the tape.
The an independent Jordanian newspaper Al-Ghad quoted al-Shami's family on Wednesday as confirming the death. It said the family was preparing a wake in the east Amman suburb where al-Shami lived before he went to Iraq after the U.S.-led invasion last year.
The pan-Arab satellite television Al-Jazeera reported al-Shami's death earlier in the week, quoting unidentified relatives.