Al Qaida leader in Iraq 'is still alive'
Updated: 2006-10-06 08:13 BAGHDAD: The US military said
yesterday the leader of al Qaida in Iraq was still very much alive, denying
reports by some Iraqi politicians that he had been tracked down and killed.
"We believe he is still alive," US military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel
Barry Johnson said, dismissing claims by several Iraqi politicians that Abu
Ayyub al-Masri and several associates were killed in a US airstrike this week.
Masri, an Egyptian who is also known as Abu Hamza al- Muhajir, assumed the
leadership of al Qaida in Iraq after Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was
killed in a US airstrike in June.
"There was a raid recently where we thought he may have been among those
killed, but now we think it is highly unlikely," Johnson said. "We are going to
rule out the possibility altogether by doing DNA tests."
Earlier, a member of parliament close to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, Hasan
al-Senaid, and a second source in the prime minister's office, who did not want
to be named, said Masri had been killed in a US assault on a "safe house" in
Haditha in western Iraq.
"Two days ago three people were killed in an airstrike on Haditha. Today it
became clear from DNA tests that Masri was one of them," Senaid said.
A senior government official said this was "simply not true."
Defence Ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari said: "It appears that the body
... was checked by US forces and is not that of Abu Ayyub al-Masri."
Another aide to Maliki said the DNA tests were still being conducted on the
bodies. The tests suggested that one of the dead was an al Qaida leader but not
Masri, he told Reuters.