El Masri Dead? (not yet)

almasri.bmpThis morning we have conflicting reports that Al Masri (“the Egyptian”) who is Al Qaida’s successor to Al Zarqawi in Iraq was killed by US forces.  From Reuters:

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – The U.S. military on Thursday denied reports it had killed the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq Abu Ayyub al-Masri.

“There was a raid where we thought he may have been among those killed. We are still doing DNA tests but we do not believe coalition forces have killed al-Masri,” U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Barry Johnson told Reuters.

Earlier, an Iraqi government source, who did not want to be named, said Masri and three of his aides were killed in the western Iraqi town of Haditha on Wednesday after U.S. forces launched an airstrike and ground assault on a safe house.

Masri’s predecessor, Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed in a U.S. airstrike in June

Al Masri specializes in car bombs, and this would be a large victory against Al Qaida since bombings are behind much of the sectarian fighting of late. Car bombing incidents have risen dramatically since Al Masri took over, and they have concentrated in Baghdad.

Sectarian violence has also risen in stride with the bombings, but at some point you have to wonder if some of the mutilated bodies found at roadside are not Al Qaida members, the people of Baghdad have got to be tired of the terror.

UPDATE at The Fourth Rail, the Iraqi government is expressing optimism that they are drawing close to capturing Al Masri.

General Caldwell also notes that al-Qaeda in Iraq has had a tough month in September. “In regards to al Qaeda in Iraq, Iraqi and coalition forces during the month of September killed over 110 terrorists and detained over 520 of them in 164 operations,” said General Caldwell, “Of those, 50 were foreign fighters that were killed and 16 captured.”

In other news, Belgian authorities have detained an Iranian suspect in a plane bombing plot.

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Belgian police have arrested an Iranian who said he was involved in a plot to bomb a passenger plane in Belgium, a spokeswoman for the federal prosecutors office said on Thursday.