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Al-Qaida Linked Militants Confirm Commander's Death in Iraq


A militant group linked to al-Qaida in Iraq has confirmed that a top commander was killed in a military raid in the northern city of Mosul earlier this month.

The purported leader of the group Islamic State in Iraq has issued an audio tape eulogizing Abu Qaswarah, also known as Abu Sara. The message was posted Wednesday on a Web site that carries statements from terror groups.

The U.S. military announced last week that Moroccan-born Qaswarah was killed in a coalition forces' raid. It identified him as the second-in-command of al-Qaida in Iraq, and it said his death will cause a major disruption to the militant group.

In violence today, a bomb planted in a parked car exploded in Mosul, killing four civilians and wounding three others. Details about the victims were not immediately known.

Authorities also said two separate bomb blasts in the capital, Baghdad, wounded at least five people.

Meanwhile, an influential Shi'ite cleric living in Iran, Ayatollah Kazim al-Hosseini al-Haeri, has issued a fatwa, or religious decree, against any accord between the United States and Iraq about the future status of U.S. troops.

The draft agreement reached last week calls for U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011, unless Baghdad asks them to stay. It also would give Iraq's government limited authority to prosecute American soldiers who commit serious crimes outside U.S. bases while off-duty.

Both Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates have warned that if there is no deal, there will be significant consequences.

Today, Zebari said Baghdad merely wants to change some of the pact's wording, and not renegotiate its substance.

Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.

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