BAGHDAD – The U.S. military on Friday identified two more top Al Qaeda aides killed during an operation earlier this week targeting a senior propagandist for the terror network.
The announcement came a day after the military said U.S.-led forces killed Al Qaeda propagandist Muharib Abdul-Latif al-Jubouri early Tuesday west of Taji, near an air base 12 miles north of Baghdad.
The operation north of Baghdad led to days of conflicting reports from the Iraqi government that the leaders of Al Qaeda and its front group, the Islamic State of Iraq, had been killed.
The chief U.S. military spokesman tried to clear that up at a news conference in Baghdad on Thursday at which he announced al-Jubouri's death but said the military did not have the bodies of Al Qaeda boss Abu Ayyub al-Masri or Islamic State leader Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and did not know "of anybody that does."
Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said the confusion apparently stemmed from the delay in identifying al-Jubouri's body and misunderstandings among Iraqi security forces as al-Jubouri's body was being moved across Baghdad after it was released to his tribe.
Al-Jubouri was one of five militants killed in the operation, which took place early Tuesday west of Taji, near an air base 12 miles north of Baghdad, but he was not identified until Wednesday after DNA testing.
Caldwell said al-Jubouri's body was then released to his tribe for burial, but Iraqi security forces had taken it back into custody along with the person transporting it at a checkpoint in Baghdad.
The body was released after the mistake was discovered, but it was seized again at a Sunni mosque in the western Ghazaliyah neighborhood by Iraqi troops, acting on a tip that al-Baghdadi was holed up there and the Americans again found themselves explaining the situation after another identification process, military spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Garver said.
The military on Friday identified two of the other slain militants as al-Jubouri's spiritual guide Sabah Hilal al-Shihawi, also known as Sabah al-Alwani and Abu Nuri; and a foreign fighter Abu Ammar al-Masri, who it said was helping with insurgent activity and infrastructure support for Al Qaeda.
Caldwell said Thursday that al-Jubouri was identified with photos and DNA testing but only his body had been removed from the battlefield.
The other two militants had been positively identified by associates at the site, and photos also had been used to identify al-Shihawi, according to the military statement.
The military did not say where al-Masri was from, but his pseudonym, which is Arabic for "The Egyptian," suggests that he comes from Egypt. Garver said al-Masri was not related to the Al Qaeda boss but acknowledged that could have been another factor in the confusion.
The Interior Ministry said earlier that al-Baghdadi had been killed and released photos of a bloated body in a wooden coffin in the back of a pickup truck that it said were of him.
On Tuesday, Iraqi officials said al-Masri had been killed by rivals north of Baghdad, but the body had not been recovered.