Tuesday, April 20, 2010

BAGHDAD (AP) — A regional al Qaeda leader was killed Tuesday as U.S. and Iraqi forces continue to put pressure on the terrorist organization following the reported deaths of its two top-ranking figures over the weekend, officials said.

Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri were killed in a joint operation Sunday in what Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. called a “potentially devastating blow” to al Qaeda in Iraq.

The joint forces quickly followed that up with a morning raid Tuesday. U.S. and Iraqi forces acting on intelligence information killed suspected insurgent leader Ahmed al-Obeidi in the northern province of Ninevah, Iraqi military spokesman Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi said.

Maj. Gen. al-Moussawi said the slain insurgent, known as Abu Suhaib, was in charge of al Qaeda in Iraq’s operations in the provinces of Kirkuk, Salahuddin and Ninevah.

RELATED TWT STORY: U.S., Iraqi forces report killing two al Qaeda leaders

U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. Stephen Lanza said American and Iraqi security forces would be keeping pressure on al Qaeda. “They’re still a threat here, and we will not lose sight of that,” he told the Associated Press.

Al Qaeda in Iraq has remained a dangerous force as the U.S. prepares to withdraw most of its troops. The terror group has launched repeated attacks on civilian targets in Baghdad in an attempt to sow chaos and exploit political deadlock in the wake of the inconclusive March 7 parliamentary elections.

The terrorist organization in the past has reacted to the deaths of leading figures with new attacks, but it was not immediately clear whether scattered violence Tuesday across the country was related.

In one incident north of Baghdad, gunmen stormed into the home of a member of a Sunni group that joined forces with the Americans to fight al Qaeda in Iraq, killing his wife, his 22-year-old daughter, and his three other children ages 8 to 12, a police officer said.

The member of the local Sahwa, or Awakening Council, was working a shift at a nearby checkpoint and discovered the bodies when he returned to his home in Tarmiyah, about 30 miles north of Baghdad, the officer said. An Interior Ministry official confirmed the deaths.

Elsewhere, a police colonel and his driver were killed by a roadside bomb in the western city of Hit, while seven other policemen and four civilians were injured in bombings in Ramadi and Baghdad, according to police officers in the cities.

The officials all spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak with the press.

Associated Press Writer David Rising contributed to this report.

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