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Al-Qaida in Iraq Confirms Death of 2 Leaders

Al-Qaida in Iraq has confirmed that two of its leaders were killed one week ago in a joint operation by U.S. and Iraqi forces.

A statement posted Sunday on Islamist websites says Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi were attending a meeting when U.S. and Iraqi troops engaged them in a battle and launched an air strike.

The statement quotes a senior figure in the Islamic State of Iraq militant group as saying the two al-Qaida commanders were steadfast in the pursuit of jihad, or holy war. The militant also urges the group's followers to keep fighting and transform the leaders' blood into "light and fire."

U.S. and Iraqi officials say Masri and Baghdadi were killed in a joint U.S.-Iraqi raid on a hideout near the northern city of Tikrit on April 18.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden called the deaths a "potentially devastating blow" to al-Qaida in Iraq.

Militants carried out a wave of bombings Friday in apparent retaliation for the raid, killing at least 69 people in Shi'ite areas of Baghdad and other parts of Iraq.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki blamed the bombings on al-Qaida in Iraq, a Sunni Muslim group. No group has claimed responsibility.

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