Key al-Qaida in Iraq figure dead, U.S. says

American forces kill propagandist who had role in abductions

May 04, 2007|By Edmund Sanders and Tina Susman | Edmund Sanders and Tina Susman,Los ANgeles Times

BAGHDAD -- U.S. forces raided a cluster of buildings and killed the chief propagandist for al-Qaida in Iraq, a key figure in the abductions of journalist Jill Carroll and slain peace activist Tom Fox, the military said yesterday.

A coalition of Sunni Arab insurgent groups that includes al-Qaida in Iraq confirmed the death of Muharib Abdul Latif al-Jubouri on its Web site, saying he had been "martyred" in a clash.

The raid near Taji, north of Baghdad, capped a six-day U.S. offensive, dubbed Operation Rat Trap, aimed at al-Qaida-related targets in several cities. U.S. officials recently have shifted blame for most of the country's violence from Shiite Muslim militias to Sunni Muslim insurgents loyal to al-Qaida. They accuse the insurgents of stepping up their activities in hopes of fueling sectarian warfare and derailing a U.S.-Iraqi security plan.

Since the plan's launch in mid-February, groups linked to al-Qaida have claimed responsibility for several high-profile attacks, including a suicide bombing that killed nine U.S. soldiers, and a blast that killed a lawmaker inside the Iraqi parliament building.

Violence struck the heavily fortified Green Zone, where the parliament is located, again this week when incoming rockets killed four civilian contractors, the U.S. Embassy reported yesterday. The victims of the Wednesday attack were a Filipino, two Indians, and a Nepali, the embassy said in a brief statement. It was the latest in a string of attacks, including the parliament blast, that have exposed the vulnerabilities of the walled enclave where U.S. and Iraqi government offices are located.

At least seven Iraqis died in mortar and gunfire attacks across the country yesterday, and police reported finding the bodies of 25 Iraqi men around Baghdad. All had been shot and appeared to be victims of sectarian death squads.

The U.S. military spokesman, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, said al-Jubouri and four associates were killed when they resisted attempts by U.S. troops to detain them during a 2 a.m. raid Tuesday. Caldwell described al-Jubouri as a key player in the abduction of Carroll, a Christian Science Monitor reporter kidnapped in January 2006 and held for 82 days before being released.

"He was responsible for the transportation and movement of Jill Carroll from her various hiding places," Caldwell said. "He was responsible for the propaganda and ransom videos."

Al-Jubouri was believed to be the last person to have custody of Fox, who was kidnapped in November 2005 and discovered dead in March 2006.

Al-Jubouri was captured in 2003 by U.S.-led forces but released in 2004. He settled with his family in Syria before returning in September to become minister of information for the Islamic State of Iraq, a parallel government established by al-Qaida in Iraq, officials say. While in Syria, he is alleged to have smuggled money and foreign fighters into Iraq to help the insurgency.

The announcement of al-Jubouri's death put to rest a flurry of confusing reports about the death of a leading insurgent. In the past week, Iraqi officials have announced the deaths of two other leading al-Qaida in Iraq loyalists: Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, who heads the Islamic State of Iraq.

Edmund Sanders and Tina Susman write for the Los Angeles Times.

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