A U.S. military commander in Iraq says coalition forces have crippled the core leadership group of al-Qaida in Iraq in a series of raids over the past few months. VOA's Alex Villarreal reports from Washington.
Chief of staff of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, Brigadier General Joseph Anderson, said a U.S. airstrike earlier this week killed senior foreign terrorist Abu Usama al-Tunisi, who he called one of the most important leaders within al-Qaida in Iraq.
Speaking to reporters in Washington via videoconference from Baghdad, the general said the elimination of Tunisi demonstrates the force's success in isolating and destroying al-Qaida cells.
"This is a dangerous terrorist who is no longer a part of al-Qaida in Iraq. His death deals a significant blow to their operation," he said.
General Anderson says Tunisi operated in the town of Yusufiyah south of Baghdad, where he oversaw the movement of foreign terrorists into Iraq, equipped them with bombs and helped them merge with terrorist cells. He described the Tunisian national as a close associate and likely successor to al-Qaida in Iraq's overall leader, Egyptian national, Abu Ayyub al-Masri.
General Anderson said U.S. forces plan to strip al-Qaida in Iraq of its power by decapitating its foreign leadership.
"Will the AQI network in Iraq have the mobility, the power, the capability to conduct the attacks they've been conducting at the same levels with the leadership being severed? I think the answer is no," he added. "I don't think the Iraqis will fill in those roles without the foreign influence coming in."
Tunisi's death near the city of Musayyib followed a series of raids that captured several of his associates.
General Anderson said foreign terrorists commit most high profile attacks in Iraq, including 80 percent of suicide bombings.
Until recently, the commander said between 60 and 80 foreign terrorists were entering Iraq each month. He said border security efforts have cut that number in half.