U.S. Says Al Qaeda in Iraq's Second in Command Killed

The U.S. military says the No. 2 leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq has been killed by Coalition forces during an Oct. 5 operation in the northern city of Mosul.

The military has positively identified the insurgent leader as a Moroccan known as Abu Qaswarah or Abu Sara.

Wednesday's statement says he became the senior Al Qaeda in Iraq emir of northern Iraq in June 2007 and had ties to senior Al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

It also says "he was Al Qaeda in Iraq's second-in-command" behind Abu Ayyub al-Masri, who also is known as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir.

Abu Qaswarah was Al Qaeda in Iraq's second in command and Al Qaeda in Iraq Emir Abu Ayyub al-Masri's senior operational leader. Significant intelligence collected in the hunt for Abu Qaswarah led Coalition forces to a building in Mosul that served as a key command and control location for Al Qaeda in Iraq.

He was responsible for organizing and leading Al Qaeda in Iraq efforts in northern Iraq, including operations against Iraqi and Coalition targets in Mosul. Abu Qaswarah oversaw the failed attempt to destroy the Mosul Civic Center during the Holy month of Ramadan.

Abu Qaswarah's death will significantly degrade Al Qaeda in Iraq operations in Mosul and Northern Iraq, leaving the network without a leader to oversee and coordinate its operations in the region.

"Abu Qaswarah is another example of how Al Qaeda in Iraq has been forced to rely on foreign terrorists to carry out their vicious attacks on the Iraqi people as well as Coalition and Iraqi forces," said Rear Adm.Patrick Driscoll, Multi-National Force-Iraq spokesman in a statement.

"The Iraqi people do not want them here, and Coalition and Iraqi forces will continue to work together to weed them out of the country. Terrorists who bring radical and fanatic Islam into Iraq commit murderous acts against the people of Iraq and have no place in the future of Iraq."

Driscoll said Abu Qaswarah directed the smuggling of foreign terrorists into northern Iraq and reportedly killed those who tried to return to their homelands rather than carry out homicide bombings and other attacks against Iraqis.

The announcement would indicate that Al Qaeda in Iraq's leadership has maintained a presence despite recent reports that many had fled to Afghanistan and Pakistan where fighting has been on the rise.

Abu Qaswarah was described by the military as a "charismatic AQI leader who rallied AQI's northern network in the wake of major setbacks to the terrorist organization across Iraq."

Nationwide violence has declined drastically over the past year, particularly in Baghdad, but the U.S. military has consistently warned Al Qaeda in Iraq and other insurgents remain a serious threat.

A recent series of killings of Iraqi Christians in Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, has highlighted the continued dangers in northern Iraq, where many insurgents fled intensive U.S. military operations in the capital and surrounding areas.

The number of Christian families fleeing violence in Mosul since last week has reached 1,390 — or more than 8,300 people, local migration official Jawdat Ismaeel said Wednesday.

Ismaeel said humanitarian teams are distributing food and aid materials to all displaced families, who are largely seeking refuge in nearby Christian-dominated towns and villages.

Islamic extremists have frequently targeted Christians and other religious minorities since the 2003 U.S. invasion, forcing tens of thousands to flee Iraq. However, attacks declined as areas became more secure following a U.S. troops buildup, a U.S.-funded Sunni revolt against Al Qaeda and a Shiite militia cease-fire.

Driscoll said the attacks against the Christians bore the hallmarks of a "typical Al Qaeda in Iraq tactic" of trying to provoke retaliatory killings by pitting members of religious and ethnic groups against each other.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.