U.S. and Iraqi officials said today that their forces had dealt Al Qaeda in Iraq a major setback when they tracked down the group's No. 2 operative to a high-rise apartment building here and shot him to death after he resisted capture.
But the death of Abu Azzam early Sunday brought no immediate letup of insurgent violence in and around his base of operation in Baghdad. In Baqubah, about 40 miles to the north, a suicide bomber mingled among police recruits assembled for their first day of work today and set off explosives strapped to his body, killing 10 recruits and wounding 28 others.
American and Iraqi officials identified Abu Azzam as the insurgent group's "emir of Baghdad," the day-to-day organizer of its terrorist attacks throughout the country and conduit of the money to pay its foreign mercenaries.
Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, placed him second in importance behind the group's elusive Jordanian-born leader, Abu Musab Zarqawi.
Zarqawi's group is behind a series of beheadings, suicide bombings and other daring attacks against U.S. forces and members of the Shiite Muslim majority that dominates Iraq's government, Los Angeles Times reported.
Several years ago, a prominent Indonesian businessman who now resides in Canada, insisted on meeting me in a back room of one of Jakarta's posh restaurants. An avid reader of mine, he 'had something urgent to tell me', after finding out that our paths were going to be crossing in this destroyed and hopelessly polluted Indonesian capital.