Al-Qa'ida admits death of leaders
An AL-QA'IDA group in Iraq yesterday confirmed the killing of its two top leaders but vowed to keep up the fight despite claims by US and Iraqi officials that the deaths could be a devastating blow to the network.
The defiance came in a statement released a week after the group's leaders -- Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri -- were killed in a raid by Iraqi and US security forces on their safe house near Tikrit, north of Baghdad.
"After a long journey filled with sacrifices and fighting falsehood and its representatives, two knights have dismounted to join the group of martyrs," the statement said.
"We announce that the Muslim nation has lost two of the leaders of jihad, and two of its men, who are only known as heroes on the path of jihad."
It concluded: "The war is still ongoing, and the favourable outcome will be for the pious."
The Islamic State of Iraq is an offshoot of al-Qa'ida in Iraq. Al-Baghdadi was its self-described leader, while Al-Masri, a weapons expert who was trained in al-Qa'ida camps in Afghanistan in the late 1990s, was the national leader of al-Qa'ida in Iraq.
Their deaths were announced last Monday by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. US Vice-President Joe Biden called the killings a "potentially devastating blow" to al-Qa'ida in Iraq.
But four days later, officials believe al-Qa'ida struck back, bombing mosques, shops and the office of a Shiite cleric, killing 72 in Iraq's bloodiest day of the year so far. Al-Maliki said the insurgents were fighting back after the deaths of their leaders.
The new statement did not mention Friday's bombings, and no group has claimed responsibility for them yet. But the statement signals that al-Qa'ida will remain a threat to Iraq even without its top two leaders.