July 31, 2008 / 5:11 AM / 11 years ago

Iraq militant group head said to be in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, July 31 (Reuters) - The leader of the Sunni insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq and several of his top lieutenants have recently left Iraq for Afghanistan, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.

In a report from Baghdad that quoted group leaders and Iraqi and U.S. intelligence officials, the newspaper said there were also indications al Qaeda was diverting new recruits from Iraq to Afghanistan.

Al Qaeda fighters have suffered serious setbacks in Iraq, but are making gains in Afghanistan and Pakistan, it said.

In a sign of increasing weakness, the number of foreign fighters entering Iraq has dropped to 20 a month, down from about 110 a month last summer, the newspaper quoted a senior U.S. intelligence analyst as saying.

"We do believe al-Qaeda is doing some measure of reassessment regarding the continued viability of its fight in Iraq and whether Iraq should remain the focus of its efforts," the newspaper quoted Brig. Gen. Brian Keller, senior intelligence officer for Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Iraq, as writing in an e-mail. (Reporting by Paul Eckert, editing by Alan Elsner) (paul.eckert@thomsonreuters.com; + 1 202 789-8578))

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