- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 3, 2007

BAGHDAD — U.S.-led forces killed a top al Qaeda in Iraq figure linked to kidnappings of a Christian Science Monitor reporter and other Westerners, the military said yesterday as mourners gathered at the slain terrorist’s home in a Sunni insurgent stronghold north of Baghdad.

The death of al Qaeda propagandist Muharib Abdul-Latif al-Jubouri was announced after days of conflicting reports from the Iraqi government that the top leaders of the terrorist group and its front organization — the Islamic State of Iraq — had been killed.

Chief spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said the military did not have the bodies of al Qaeda boss Abu Ayyub Masri or Islamic State leader Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and did not know “of anybody that does.”

Gen. Caldwell said the confusion apparently stemmed from misunderstandings among Iraqi security forces as al-Jubouri’s body was being moved across Baghdad after it was released to his tribe. He played down implications that it was a symptom of a broader problem of communication between U.S. and Iraqi forces, saying instead it showed that the Iraqis were doing their jobs.

“They at least knew that they had somebody who was very significant,” he said, adding that was “a very positive thing.”

The Islamic State of Iraq confirmed in an Internet statement that al-Jubouri, whom it called its official spokesman, had been killed. It denied the deaths of al-Baghdadi and Masri.

Al-Jubouri was thought to have been deeply involved in the kidnapping of Jill Carroll, the Christian Science Monitor reporter who was released unharmed, and Tom Fox of Clear Brook, Va., one of four men from the Chicago-based peace group Christian Peacemaker Teams who was found fatally shot in Baghdad on March 10, 2006, he said. He also was involved in the kidnapping of two Germans in January 2006, Gen. Caldwell said.

Gen. Caldwell said al-Jubouri helped facilitate Miss Carroll’s transport from one location to another and was thought to have been the last known person to have custody of Mr. Fox before he was killed. The Monitor later reported that Miss Carroll did not recognize a photo of al-Jubouri that the military provided.

Al-Jubouri was arrested in 2003 by the U.S. and freed a year later, Gen. Caldwell said. A man who claimed to be a relative said al-Jubouri, in his mid-30s and a father of four, deepened his involvement with insurgents after his release.

Gen. Caldwell said al-Jubouri had worked in Syria, where he purportedly helped smuggle foreign fighters and funds into Iraq until he returned to the country in September.

Al-Jubouri was killed early Tuesday during an operation dubbed “Rat Trap” about four miles west of the Taji, a town near an air base north of Baghdad, Gen. Caldwell said. The body was identified by photos and DNA testing, he said.

Yesterday, mourners gathered at al-Jubouri’s house in Duluiyah, 45 miles north of Baghdad, as a huge funeral tent went up in the street, police said.

Gen. Caldwell said 87 militants were killed and 465 persons of interest detained in 139 operations against the group last month.

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