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U.S. military says al Qaeda in Iraq mastermind dead

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  • Poland ends military presence in Iraq with ceremony Saturday
  • U.S. diplomats meet with local officials to discuss Kirkuk sovereignty
  • U.S. military: Man suspected in series of Iraqi bombings killed by coalition forces
  • Troops acting in self-defense shot Abu Rami and woman, according to military
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Coalition forces in Baghdad have killed the man believed to be the mastermind of recent bombings in the Iraqi capital, the U.S. military said.

Mahir Ahmad Mahmud Judu al-Zubaydi, also known as Abu Rami and Abu Assad, was believed to be the leader of one of al Qaeda in Iraq's Baghdad networks, the military said in a statement issued Friday.

The military said intelligence reports led coalition forces to a building in Baghdad's Adhamiya neighborhood Friday. They surrounded the building and called on the occupants to surrender but were engaged by small arms fire, the military said.

The forces returned fire and killed two people, Abu Rami and a female, the military said.

"Sadly, here again is a case where [al Qaeda in Iraq] has put innocent lives in danger in order to protect themselves and shield their terrorist efforts," said Rear Adm. Patrick Driscoll, a spokesman for the Multi-National Force in Iraq.

Coalition forces had evacuated several children from the building before they detonated ordnance inside, the military said. The house caught fire, the military said, and the local fire department was called in for assistance.

The U.S. military blames Abu Rami for masterminding numerous car bombings, including an October 2 suicide car bombing that killed eight people and wounded more than 30. The attack happened outside a Shiite mosque in Baghdad just as worshippers left early-morning prayers marking the end of Ramadan.

Among the victims of that attack were several Iraqi soldiers who were part of an army patrol providing security for worshippers, Iraqi and U.S. officials said.

Abu Rami was also responsible for numerous car bombings and mortar attacks in Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood in 2006 and 2007, including a car bombing in November 2006 that killed more than 200 people, the military said.

That attack, which targeted Shiites, was one of the worst attacks in Iraq since the war began in 2003.

Abu Rami was also believed to be a planner and participant in kidnappings and videotaped executions, the military said. A video from June 2006 shows Abu Rami shooting one of four Russian diplomats.

The diplomats were taken hostage weeks before an al Qaeda-linked group said it had beheaded three of them and shot the fourth to death.

Abu Rami also is said to have ordered and directed a car bombing May 1 that killed eight Iraqis and a U.S. soldier, the military said.

Abu Rami was originally a member of the terrorist group Ansar al-Islam and joined al Qaeda in Iraq in 2004, the military said. He became the military "emir" of Baghdad's Rusafa district last year before taking over all terrorist operations there, the military said.

Meanwhile Saturday, Poland ended its military presence in Iraq with a ceremony for its approximately 900 troops at Camp Echo in Qadasiyah Province.

"We can say the goals of the mission have been largely accomplished. Over the past five years, we have fulfilled our commitment," Polish Defense Minister Bogdan Klich said, according to a news release issued by coalition forces.

The Polish army commanded Multi-National Division - Center South, which operated throughout Qadasiyah Province.

Polish forces completed 10 rotations in Iraq, which ended October 1, and commanded 10 national contingents, including Armenia, Latvia, Mongolia, Romania, Ukraine, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

"You came not to conquer but to liberate. You sought not personal gain but liberty, and you build not an empire but a sovereign nation. You created hope where terror reigned, and you have made history," said Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of Multi-National Force - Iraq.

The operating area was transferred to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.

Also Saturday, Deputy U.S. Secretary of State John Negroponte met with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani at his residence in northern Iraq, about 100 kilometers west of Kirkuk.

The meeting focused on the "strategic framework" between Iraq and the United States to safeguard the Iraq's independence, Talabani said in a statement Saturday.

"During the meeting everyone discussed the political, economic and security issues and both sides addressed the most important developments related to the political process, national reconciliation and the aimed efforts to the success of this process from all aspects and at all levels," Talabani said.

Earlier, Negroponte met with Arab representatives in Kirkuk to discuss a Kurdish-Arab dispute over the city's ethnic tensions.

The Kurds want to incorporate oil-rich Kirkuk into their semiautonomous region.

His visit comes at a time of growing tensions between the central government of Nuri al-Maliki and the Kurdistan Regional Government in the country's autonomous northern region.

In August, Iraqi forces entered Khanaqin, a territory disputed between Arabs and Kurds that is secured by the Kurdish peshmerga forces. The crisis was resolved on a political level, but tensions remain high in the area and relations between the Shiite-dominated government and the KRG remain strained.

Like Khanaqin, Kirkuk is disputed territory. Legislators overcame an impasse over a key provincial elections law last month by setting the problem of Kirkuk aside and deciding to exclude the province from a vote expected early next year.

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