September 28, 2007 / 4:04 PM / 12 years ago

U.S. reports death of senior al Qaeda Iraq leader

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Coalition troops killed a senior leader of al Qaeda in Iraq who led a group responsible for kidnapping two U.S. soldiers in June 2006, a U.S. army general said on Friday.

Abu Usama al-Tunisi, whose group kidnapped and killed Pfc. Kristian Menchaca and Pfc. Thomas Tucker, was killed in a U.S. air strike on Tuesday, said Brig. Gen. Joseph Anderson, chief of staff for the Multi-National Corps-Iraq.

Anderson cast the death as a significant blow to al Qaeda in Iraq, saying it showed the group had been disrupted and its cells isolated by recent U.S. operations.

“This was a dangerous terrorist who is no longer part of Al Qaeda in Iraq,” Anderson told Pentagon reporters by videolink from Iraq. “His death deals a significant blow to their operation.”

Menchaca and Tucker disappeared in June 2006. Their mutilated and booby-trapped bodies were found days later.

The U.S. military released excerpts of what it said was a note handwritten by al-Tunisi that showed al Qaeda in Iraq have been disrupted by coalition operations.

“I have been surrounded ... for two and a half months because the road has been closed by the Apostate, and there is no other way,” said the note, found at the site of a U.S. air strike. “We are so desperate for your help.”

Anderson said: “I think what you’re seeing is a very disrupted network.”

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