The Iraqi Interior Ministry says the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, was killed in an internal fight among Sunni insurgents. However, the U.S. and at least one Iraqi official have expressed only cautious optimism, as a body has not yet been recovered.

The news, if confirmed, would be a mixed blessing for the Bush administration, which praised the death of former al-Qaida in Iraq chief Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as a turning point in the war, only to see violent attacks in the country grow more vicious and frequent.

Update: al-Masri’s umbrella organization has denied reports of his death.


Abu Ayyub al-Masri, believed to be an Egyptian, has led the group since June 2006 when Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in a US air strike.

One official said he was “100% sure” that Masri had been killed, but another urged caution as the body had not been recovered.

Officials said Masri was killed in an “internal battle” between militants.

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