The most senior figure in the al-Qaida in Iraq terrorist organization in Baghdad has been killed during a raid in Baghdad by U.S. and Iraqi forces. VOA Correspondent Alisha Ryu in the Iraqi capital reports that the terrorist had claimed responsibility for a number of high-profile attacks and assassinations throughout the country.
U.S. and Iraqi forces say they found the terrorist, Abu Azzam, in an apartment in the Khadra neighborhood, west of downtown Baghdad, early Sunday. The information of his whereabouts apparently came from a captured detainee.
The soldiers broke down the door and opened fire, killing Abu Azzam and wounding another unidentified man. Two women who were also in the house at the time were unhurt.
Speaking through an interpreter, Iraqi government spokesman Laith Kubba called Abu Azzam's death a painful blow to al-Qaida in Iraq.
"This is very important news because Abu Azzam is responsible for carrying out random attacks in Baghdad and especially random attacks against Shi'ite Muslims," said Mr. Kubba. "He was responsible for the logistics, for communications and he was responsible for planning the car bombs, which have killed hundreds of Iraqi citizens."
Abu Azzam, whose real name is Abdullah Najim Abdullah Mohammed al-Jawari, was on Iraq's 29 most wanted insurgents list and had a $50,000 bounty on his head.
Believed to have been an Iraqi, the al-Qaida leader last year claimed responsibility for a number of high-profile assassinations, including the murders of Izzadine Saleem, the president of the U.S.-appointed Governing Council, and the governor of Iraq's northern Nineveh province.
Abu Azzam was previously known as the "Emir of Anbar," the Sunni-dominated western province that has been at the heart of Iraq's insurgency. About five-months ago, he moved his operations and established himself as the Emir of Baghdad, a top lieutenant to al-Qaida in Iraq's leader, Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
On Tuesday, the U.S. military and the Iraqi government hailed two other recent successes against al-Qaida's leadership in Iraq.
Iraq says the group's leader in the restive northern city of Mosul had surrendered peacefully to the Iraqi military. And al-Qaida's chief in the town of Karabila, near the Syrian border, was killed Monday, during an Iraqi-coalition raid on the group's headquarters.
In recent months, the U.S. military has reported the capture or killings of several high-ranking Abu Musab al-Zarqawi associates. But those setbacks have been answered with renewed suicide bombings.
Government spokesman Laith Kubba said that Abu Azzam was more significant than any of the others, but warned that the terrorist organization probably has not lost its ability to carry out more attacks.
Security in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq is being strengthened before the October 15 national referendum on the country's draft constitution. Sunni extremist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has declared his aim to kill all Shi'ites in Iraq and Sunni Arabs who participate in Iraq's political process.