BAGHDAD, May 3: The US military killed a senior Al-Qaeda figure this week in Iraq but the dead man was not the group's chief as was claimed by Iraqi officials, spokesman Major General William Caldwell said on Thursday.
Caldwell told reporters that US forces killed Al Qaeda in Iraq's “senior information minister,” whom he identified as Muharib Abdul Latif al-Juburi, early on Tuesday just north of Baghdad.
The militant played key roles in the kidnapping and murder
of US peace activist Tom Fox and American journalist Jill Carroll in 2006 among other high profile actions, Caldwell said.
Previously, Iraqi officials had reported that the dead militant was Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq.
But Caldwell said that US officials would have immediately been able to identify Masri's corpse, and that they were positive they had in fact killed Abdul Latif, a lesser but still senior figure.
“We killed him on a target objective at 1:42 am west of Taji on May 1,” Caldwell said.
“This is the individual that has caused some confusion and was the senior Al Qaeda person killed.
“His was the only body we took at the site,” he added. “DNA testing and photo identification confirmed this yesterday.” (Wednesday).
Caldwell said the confusion arose when Abdul Latif's body was released for burial to a tribal member who was subsequently arrested at a police checkpoint as he left the city with the corpse.
Afterwards, Iraq's interior ministry announced that Masri -- an Egyptian bomb-maker and the alleged head of Al Qaeda in Iraq -- had been killed.
On Thursday Iraqi officials added to the confusion by claiming that Abdul Latif was also known as “Abu Omar al-Baghdadi,” and led the so-called “Islamic State of Iraq,” an insurgent umbrella group.—AFP