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Coalition Kills Number Two al-Qaida Leader in Iraq


The U.S. military says it has killed al-Qaida's second ranking commander in Iraq. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon.

The coalition command in Baghdad says it has determined that a man killed during an operation earlier this month was a Moroccan named Abu Qaswarah. The military says he was the senior operational leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, working directly under the group's top leader, Abu Ayub al-Masri.

The military says he was killed when coalition forces raided a building that they suspected of being an al-Qaida command center in the northern town of Mosul.

The coalition describes Abu Qaswarah, also known as Abu Sara, as "a charismatic leader who rallied al-Qaida in Iraq's northern network" after it had suffered major setbacks. It also says he supervised the transit of foreign fighters into Iraq, and handled all al-Qaida operations in the northern part of the country, where most of the fighting has been in recent months. Officials say he was in charge of a failed attempt to bomb the Mosul Civic Center during the recent Holy Month of Ramadan.

The coalition says the death of al-Qaswarah "will cause a major disruption" to al-Qaida's Iraq network.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman agrees, but also acknowledges that the insurgency will go on.

"It is significant because he is the number two al-Qaida person in Iraq," he said. "But it also reminds us that the insurgency and terrorist organizations are not about individuals. They are about cells. And they are about decentralized execution in their operations. Is it important to continue to go after the leadership of these cells and the organization? Yes, and we'll continue to do that. But you have to fight this on a broad effort because of the nature of the organization."

That broader effort involves helping the Iraqi government deliver security and services to the people. President Bush drew attention to that during an event at the White House on Wednesday, when he spoke via satellite to the leaders of several Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Iraq. The teams bring together U.S. military and civilian officials to work with Iraqis on development projects.

"We are having success in Iraq," said President Bush. "And one of the main reasons why is we're implementing an innovative strategy that combines our military with civilian expertise to help people at the grassroots level build a society that will lay the foundation for peace."

Military officials say their efforts have resulted in a significant increase in the number of Iraqi civilians who offer information about insurgents working in their neighborhoods. But officials could not say whether such a tip led to the attack on the al-Qaida command center in Mosul, in which Abu Qaswarah was killed.

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