The U.S. military says it has killed a senior leader of al-Qaida in Iraq who was involved in the kidnappings of several Westerners. Iraqi officials also have announced two other high-profile al-Qaida deaths in recent days, but VOA's Barry Newhouse reports from northern Iraq that U.S. officials say those deaths are unconfirmed and may have been the result of miscommunication.
U.S. military spokesman Major General William Caldwell says al-Qaida in Iraq's information minister, Muharib Abdul Latif al-Jubouri, was killed May first during a U.S.-led operation in Taji, north of Baghdad.
"We took that body off the target objective. Through DNA testing which didn't get finished until yesterday, we were able to positively identify that is in fact who we killed," he said.
While U.S. officials were waiting to confirm Jubori's death, Iraqi officials reported on May first that al-Qaida in Iraq's leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri was killed, also in Taji. Iraqi officials have produced no evidence to back up the claim.
U.S. officials say Jubori was involved in several high-profile kidnappings in recent years, including American reporter Jill Carroll and American peace activist Tom Fox. Fox was found dead and Carroll was released in March 2006.
The U.S. military released Jubori's body on Wednesday to a member of his family in Baghdad, but the military says Iraqi forces then detained the family member and the body at a Baghdad checkpoint.
Interior Ministry spokesman Brigadier General Abdul Kareem Khalaf told Iraqi television that Iraqi forces intercepted a family member transporting the body of the leader of a terrorist group linked to al-Qaida in Iraq.
General Khalaf says Iraqi forces identified the body as Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the leader of the insurgent group The Islamic State of Iraq.
U.S. and Iraqi officials have been unable to explain the discrepancy in the reported deaths. General Caldwell said U.S. officials have no information about an individual known as Baghdadi.
"There's a lot of discussion of a person called al Baghdadi, but we're not really sure who that person might be," he added.
Despite the confusion, General Caldwell said the fact that Iraqi forces stopped and investigated a suspicious car is evidence of improvement in Baghdad's security operation.
"There's a lot of people within this city that are moved around that have been deceased. That the Iraqi security forces see in different vehicles," he continued. "But they were able to identify this one, so that is a good thing that that happened."
The general said that, in April, between 1,500 and 2,000 innocent civilians were killed or wounded by car bombs and suicide vests. The general said that, during the same period, coalition and Iraqi forces launched 139 raids on al-Qaida targets, killing 87 suspected terrorists and detaining 465 others.