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Iraq Transition

U.S. denies al Qaeda leader in Iraq slain

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The U.S. military Thursday denied reports that al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri had been killed by U.S. forces in a raid.

At least two Arab networks and Reuters initially reported that al-Masri was dead, but a U.S. military spokesman said those reports are not true.

According to Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, the reports "do not appear to have any substance," although he said several "terrorists" had been killed in an operation.

"We don't believe al-Masri has been killed during recent coalition forces operations," Johnson said, while admitting that there had been some initial hope that the al Qaeda in Iraq leader had been killed in the raid.

Johnson would not say when or where the operation took place, citing operational security.

Just last Sunday, Iraq's national security adviser had issued a warning to al-Masri, saying that Iraqi troops were close to getting him "either as a corpse or tied up to face justice soon."

At that time, Muwaffak al-Rubaie showed reporters a video captured during a recent raid that he said showed al-Masri training followers to make car bombs.

He estimated that al-Masri has been involved in making more than 2,000 car bombs that have killed more than 6,000 Iraqis over the past two years. (Watch the video -- :40)

"We want to tell Abu Ayyub al-Masri that we are so close to you, much more closer than you thought," al-Rubaie said.

Al-Masri, also known as Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, was an Egyptian who took over the leadership of al Qaeda in Iraq in June after the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Last week, an audiotape purportedly from al-Masri appeared on Islamic Web sites, saying he was launching a major military campaign and urging other Muslims in Iraq to join the fight. (Full story)

Abu Ayyub al-Masri is shown in an image taken from a recent video in which he trained followers to make car bombs.


• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide


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