BAGHDAD, (AP) – A U.S. military helicopter fired a guided missile to kill a wanted Saudi Arabian al-Qaeda in Iraq leader who was believed responsible for the bombing deaths of five American soldiers, a spokesman said Monday.
U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Gregory Smith said Jar Allah, also known as Abu Yasir al-Saudi, and another Saudi known only as Hamdan, were both killed Wednesday in Mosul. Al-Saudi headed up the al-Qaeda network in southeast Mosul, an insurgent hotbed where U.S forces wage daily battles against the group.
According to the military, al-Saudi conducted numerous attacks against Iraqi and U.S. forces, including a Jan. 28 bombing that killed the five U.S. soldiers.
In that attack, insurgents blasted a U.S. patrol with a roadside bomb and showered survivors with gunfire from a mosque. The soldiers died in the explosion — the deadliest on American forces since six soldiers perished Jan. 9 in a booby-trapped house north of Baghdad.
Intelligence gathered in the area led the U.S. military to al-Saudi, who was in a car with Hamdan. A precision helicopter strike killed both and destroyed their vehicle. U.S. forces then confirmed the men’s identities.
Al-Saudi is said to have been a close associate of al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri and to have arrived in Mosul with a group of foreign fighters in August 2007 after spending time fighting in Afghanistan.
“Mosul is a critical crossroads for al-Qaeda in Iraq. It is their strategic center of gravity. One-half to two-thirds of attacks in Iraq today are in and around Mosul,” Smith said.
Smith said the deaths brought to 142 the number of al-Qaeda insurgents killed or captured since the beginning of the year.