April 24, 2010 | FDD’s Long War Journal

Al Qaeda in Iraq confirms deaths of al Masri, Baghdadi

Al Qaeda in Iraq has confirmed that its top two leaders were killed during a raid last weekend by Iraqi and US forces.

The terror group admitted that Abu Ayyub al Masri, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, and Abu Omar al Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq, al Qaeda's political front, were killed. The Islamic State of Iraq released a statement on the Internet, which was posted on allied jihadist websites. Abu al Walid Abd al Wahhab al Mashadani, the group's sharia minister, is quoted and confirmed their deaths.

“The ISI Sharia Minister, Abu al-Walid Abd al Wahhab al Mashadani, informed that both leaders were attending a meeting when enemy forces engaged them in battle and launched an airstrike on their location,” the statement, which was translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, said.

Al Masri, Baghdadi, Baghdadi's son, and an aide to al Masri were all killed by Iraqi and US forces during a raid on their hideout near Tikrit in the remote Thar Thar region on April 18. During the operation, 16 aides and bodyguards were captured.

Al Qaeda in Iraq remained silent about al Masri and Baghdadi's deaths for six days before confirming the news. In the interim, jihadis posting on the al Qaeda-linked forums doubted Western and Iraqi reports of the deaths of al Masri and Baghdadi. Posts on the forums attempting to lionize al Masri and Baghdadi were removed by administrators. These actions in turn caused many forum posters and members of the media to question the accuracy of the reports that al Masri and Baghdadi had been killed.

Iraqi and US forces quickly capitalized on intelligence gathered from the strike that killed al Masri and Baghdadi. Within five days of killing al Qaeda's top two leaders, Iraqi and US forces killed al Qaeda's military commander in northern Iraq and its operations commander in Anbar province.

Al Qaeda followed al Masri and Baghdad's deaths by killing 67 Iraqis in bombings in Baghdad and Anbar on April 23. Mashadani appears to take credit for the attack, and others like it.

“He said that the 'Crusaders' and Shi'ites will exploit the incident to improve the image of Iraqi security services and give the enemy alliance an 'illusory' victory after the mass-casualty incidents carried out by the ISI [Islamic State of Iraq] in Baghdad,” al Qaeda's statement read.