The 2 most senior leaders of Al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, were killed April 18th by Iraqi security forces with the support of U.S. troops, during a series of joint security operations near Tikrit.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced the deaths of the two men at a news conference in Baghdad. He said the 2 were found in a hole in the ground. Mr. al-Maliki said computers with e-mails to Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al Zawahri were also found at the site.
Al-Masri and al-Baghdadi were responsible for plotting, planning and executing terrorist attacks against Iraqis in the recent past, as well as Americans. "Their deaths," U.S Vice President Joe Biden told reporters in Washington, "are potentially devastating blows to al-Qaida in Iraq:"
"Equally important, in my view, is this action demonstrates the improved security, strength and capacity of Iraqi security forces. The Iraqis led this operation, and it was based on intelligence the Iraqi security forces themselves developed following their capture of a senior AQI [al-Qaida in Iraq] leader last month."
Mr. Biden said the counterterrorism operation near Tikrit was "the culmination of a lot of cooperation and very hard work by Iraqi and U.S. forces to degrade AQI over the last months and years." It is a landmark, he said, "as the Iraqi people stand up to those who would deny them peace, freedom, as well as security."
Two days after al-Masri and al-Baghdadi were killed, a third al-Qaida commander, identified by the U.S. military as Hazim Ilyas Abdallah al-Khafaji, also known as Yasir al-Hambali, was killed by Iraqi forces in a joint U.S.–Iraqi security operation near Mosul.
Vice President Biden urged Iraq's political leaders to build on the country's security gains and take "the next and important necessary step to form an inclusive and representative government that meets the needs of the Iraqi people."
The United States, said Mr. Biden, will continue to work to build a lasting partnership with the Iraqi people and their government "based on the many shared interests we have that go beyond the military cooperation we have had of late, including the economy, cultural exchanges and the development of a strong economy for Iraq."