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US: Forces Kill Key Leader of al-Qaida in Iraq


A U.S. general in Baghdad says troops have killed a leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, further reducing the terrorist group's ability to carry out attacks.

General David Perkins told reporters Thursday the death of Haji Hammadi is "another significant blow" to al-Qaida in Iraq.

Hammadi was accused of planning suicide bombings, killings and kidnappings, including the abduction and murder of a U.S. sergeant in 2004.

The U.S. military says U.S. troops killed Hammadi and another insurgent November 11 in Baghdad's Mansour neighborhood.

Perkins also told reporters that violence has declined significantly in Iraq over the past year.

He said the military currently sees about 20 attacks a day. He said at the same time last year, there were an average of 180 attacks a day.

In other news, Italy's foreign minister, Franco Frattini, made an unannounced visit to Iraq on Thursday and urged the Iraqi government to do more to protect Christians.

Thousands of Christian families have fled the northern Iraqi city of Mosul after a number of killings in recent months.

Frattini also met with his Iraqi counterpart, Hoshyar Zebari, and said Italy would help rebuild Iraqi museums.

In Washington Thursday, the U.S. Department of the Treasury designated a German man of Moroccan heritage a terrorist financier and facilitator for his ties to al-Qaida in Iraq.

The Treasury Department said Redouane El Habhab has supported the terrorist group with financial payments and by helping smuggle "violence-prone activists" into Iraq.

Designating El Habhab as a "terrorist financier" freezes any assets he has in the U.S., and prohibits Americans from engaging in any transactions with him.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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