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Reward for wanted terrorist drops

  • Story Highlights
  • Value on Abu Ayyub al-Masri dropped from $5 million to $1 million last year
  • In February, bounty on al-Masri was trimmed to $100,000, officials say
  • Al-Masri took reins of al Qaeda in Iraq in June 2006 after U.S. killed predecessor
  • Last week, officials thought they'd nabbed him but had similarly named man instead
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From Mike Mount
CNN Pentagon Producer
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. government has reduced by millions the reward for the capture or killing al Qaeda in Iraq's leader because he's no longer worth the price tag, Pentagon officials said Tuesday.

The value placed on Abu Ayyub al-Masri dropped from $5 million to $1 million last year and then in February was trimmed to $100,000, Pentagon officials said.

Al-Masri, called "the Egyptian" and also known as Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, took the reins of Iraq's al Qaeda offshoot in June 2006, after a U.S. missile strike killed his predecessor, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

The reduction of reward money knocked al-Masri off the U.S. State Department "Rewards for Justice" program list and placed him on a Department of Defense list for people with lower bounties, Pentagon officials said.

U.S. Central Command, which oversees combat operations in the Middle East and southwestern Asia, including Iraq and Afghanistan, often evaluates wanted individuals in its region to see how important they are based on the most up-to-date intelligence.

"The current assessment, based on a number of factors, shows that he is not as an effective leader of al Qaeda in Iraq as he was last year," Central Command spokesman Jamie Graybeal said of al-Masri.

Graybeal said that for security reasons, he couldn't go into detail about the assessment.

Reward programs from the State and Defense departments pay tipsters for information that leads to the capture or death of terrorists.

Last week, Iraqi officials thought they had captured al-Masri in Mosul but later discovered it was a man with a similar name, U.S. military officials said.

The misunderstanding was one of many false announcements of al-Masri's capture or slaying since 2006.

All About U.S. Department of StateAl Qaeda in IraqAbu Ayyub al-Masri

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