Iraq: Security operation continues as source says al Qaeda leader wounded
American and Iraqi forces pushed deeper into Sunni strongholds in Baghdad while British-led teams in southern Iraq used shipping containers to block suspected weapon smuggling routes from Iran. Early Friday, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry said the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, was hurt and an aide died in a clash the previous day with Iraqi forces north of Baghdad.
However, the deputy interior minister said he had no information about such a clash, the AP reported.
The announcement about the wounding of al-Masri came from Brig. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, an Interior Ministry spokesman. He said the clash occurred near Balad, a major U.S. base about 50 miles north of the capital, and identified the dead aide as Abu Abdullah al-Majemaai.
Al-Masri took over the leadership of al-Qaeda in Iraq after its leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed in a U.S. airstrike last June in Diyala province northeast of Baghdad.
Outside Baghdad, troops also faced Sunni ambushes. In Buhriz, about 30 miles northeast of the capital, Sunni gunmen and US soldiers engaged in a 20-minute firefight. No U.S. casualties were reported. Separately, however, a U.S. Marine was killed in Iraq's western Anbar province.