WASHINGTON - A U.S. airstrike killed one of the most senior al-Qaida leaders in Iraq, a Tunisian linked to the kidnapping and killings last summer of American soldiers, a top commander said Friday.Of course every alleged al-Qaeda member the US kills is one of the most senior leaders, but there is another problem; Abu Osama al-Tunisi was killed a year ago too.
Brig. Gen. Joseph Anderson said the death of the suspected terrorist in a U.S. airstrike Tuesday south of Baghdad, and recent similar operations against al-Qaida, have left the organization in Iraq fractured.
Abu Osama al-Tunisi was killed along with two other terrorist suspects in a U.S. F-16 strike that dropped two 500-pound laser-guided bombs on a safehouse where they were meeting, said the U.S. Central Command Air Forces.
"Al-Tunisi was one of the most senior leaders ... the emir of foreign terrorists in Iraq and part of the inner leadership circle," Anderson told a Pentagon news conference.
Oddly enough, this is not the first time that Abu Usama al-Tunisi has been reported killed. Over a year ago (in May 2006), Al-Qaida supporters posted online announcements declaring the "martyrdom" of Abu Usama al-Tunisi. The news of al-Tunisi's death was distributed on, among other places, the highly credible Al-Hesbah Islamic Network--which has been directly endorsed in past propaganda films produced by Al-Qaida in Iraq. According to that announcement:I guess they had to make sure he was dead."The martyrdom of Abu Usama al-Tunisi, the commander of [Al-Qaida’s] Aeisha Brigade... He caused much desperation and anxiety among the Americans and he spread frustration among their soldiers. The Americans knew Abu Usama al-Tunisi very well, because he was one of the commanders who led the Battle of Abu Anas al-Shami during which he served as the military commander responsible for one of the four frontlines of the mission... Abu Usama first entered Iraq two years ago. He used to always smile when talking to his brothers and had a profound faith in Allah. Abu Usama was killed in the area of Al-Yusifiya during an air strike that also killed four other brothers."This naturally leads us to the problem of addressing this obvious discrepancy. Is it possible that there are two separate Abu Usama al-Tunisis serving as commanders for Al-Qaida in Iraq? Perhaps... but the likelihood of this incredible coincidence rapidly plummets when one considers that both of these men have been identically described as the commander of Al-Qaida's Aeisha Brigade and active in the area of al-Yusifiya. If we put aside this theory, we are left with quite limited possibilities. It would seem that either Al-Qaida supporters were engaged in a deliberate misinformation campaign on their own password-protected chat forums, or else the U.S. military has potentially been the victim of questionable intelligence. It should be further noted that Al-Qaida has prided itself in the past on providing accurate and timely information concerning the "martyrdom" of its military commanders. When former Al-Qaida commander Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in a U.S. airstrike in mid-2006, the same Al-Hesbah Network was one of the first sources to correctly confirm the news of his death on behalf of Al-Qaida.