Al-Qaeda in Iraq number two killed, US claims

Al-Qaeda’s second-in-command in Iraq has been killed, reports say. Iraqi and US officials said Abu Azzam, described as an aide to leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed in a joint operation in Baghdad. A US military official said Azzam was killed in a high-rise block in the Iraqi capital after a tip-off from an Iraqi citizen. “During the operation, which was held with the intent of capturing him, he fired and he was killed by return fire,” Maj Flora Lee said.

But US and Iraq officials differed over the timing of the raid. Maj Lee said it happened at 04:50 local time Sept. 25, while Iraq officials said it occurred on the 26th. Another US spokesman said Azzam had been tracked for some time, and his death was a “significant development.”

“This shows that we are actively going after the network. We’ve taken down the number two in the network and that is going to have an impact,” Lt-Col Steve Boylan said. “And whoever replaces him as number two, we will go after him as well.”

The US authorities are offering $25 million for the capture of Zarqawi, who is believed to be behind the kidnapping and beheading of several foreigners in Iraq. His group is also believed to be behind a long list of suicide bombings and attacks on Iraqi and US forces. Zarqawi is currently thought to be hiding in the Euphrates River valley, where the US has carried out frequent operations aimed at capturing him.

In a separate incident, at least 10 people were killed and over 25 injured in an attack on police recruits in Baquba, north of Baghdad – the third major attack on Iraqi police in the last three days. The attack took place at a center for recruiting the elite Rapid Reaction Force, in the city’s al-Jadida district. Police said the death toll was expected to rise.

On the Sept. 26, at least five men lining up to join the police and two serving policemen died when a suicide bomber targeted Baghdad’s police academy.

In other developments:

*Gunmen fired on a police convoy taking detainees to Abu Ghraib jail killing two people and wounding at least eight

*Five civilians were injured as a car bomb exploded in central Baghdad.

*An army officer was shot dead and a police officer were killed in a bomb attack in Kirkuk. (BBC, Sept. 27 via Turkish Weekly)

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