An Islamic Web site statement claimed Wednesday that Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi (search), Al Qaeda's point man in Iraq, has fled to a "neighboring country" with two Arab doctors treating him for gunshot wounds to his lung.
The claim's authenticity could not be confirmed. The site used to carry messages from Al Qaeda, but has fallen out of use recently. Soon, the statement appeared on another militant site, where other posters quickly denounced it as untrue and unauthorized by the terror group.
The statement came a day after a message in the name of al-Zarqawi's group, Al Qaeda in Iraq (search), appeared on another Web site, saying the terrorist mastermind has been wounded. U.S. officials cautioned they did not know if that posting was authentic and privately said the information also may have been designed to purposely mislead.
Also Wednesday, the Iraqi government said security forces have killed Sabhan Ahmad Ramadan (search), a senior al-Zarqawi aide in northern Iraq.
Ramadan, also known as Agha Abu Saad, was killed as he was manning a checkpoint in the northern province of Nineveh, the government said in a statement. It added that Ramadan was a leading aide to Abu Talha — the head of operations in Mosul for al-Zarqawi and his Al Qaeda in Iraq terror group.
Wednesday's message from somebody identified only as al-Khalidi — the same name as somebody who used the site regularly in the past — said the information was based on accounts of "brothers close to the holy warriors in Iraq and who are in contact with them." He did not elaborate.
Al-Zarqawi "was secretly smuggled to a neighboring country a few days ago in a complicated and organized operation," the message said, but it did not identify the country.
It said al-Zarqawi was in "stable condition now" after he incurred a "bullet wound which penetrated his right lung."
Mideast security officials told The Associated Press in Amman that they could not verify the authenticity of the posting or its contents.
Al-Zarqawi has claimed responsibility for attacks on Iraqi civilians and security forces and kidnappings and beheadings of foreigners, and has a $25 million bounty on his head.