The Bush administration condemned the killing of Gen. Shawkat Haji Mushir, a commander of the Iraqi Kurdish resistance. The State Department agreed with Kurdish leaders that a Kurdish group tied to Al Qaeda killed Mushir.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher noted Monday that Secretary of State Colin Powell has made clear his grave concern about the group, Ansar al-Islam, and their connections with Usama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network.

Boucher said the United States had worked closely for years with Mushir, a senior official of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, an anti-Saddam roup, and a minister in the rump Kurdish parliament.

Witnesses and party officials said three Ansar members apparently laid a trap for Mushir by posing as would-be defectors. After coming to negotiate, they turned on Mushir with Kalashnikov assault rifles and grenades, killing him, two other party officials and three civilians in the northern Iraq village Qamesh Tapa.

The Saturday night attack came as the U.S. military has been attempting to enlist the Kurds in a possible war against Saddam.

Powell told the U.N. Security Council last week that the Iraqi government has an agent in the most senior levels of Ansar al-Islam. He said the group controls territory in Iraq, adding that the agent offered Al Qaeda a haven in the region in 2000.

"After we swept Al Qaeda from Afghanistan, some of those members accepted this safe haven," Powell said. "They remain there today."