BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraqi and U.S. forces have killed the top two al Qaeda leaders in Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri (also known as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir) and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, Iraq authorities and the U.S. military said on Monday.
Below is reaction to the news.
GARETH STANSFIELD, ASSOCIATE AT CHATHAM HOUSE
“Al Qaeda has shown in the past that it can come back from this kind of setback. But the question is that as al Qaeda has become weaker and weaker in Iraq whether there is any leadership within the country that they can rely on or whether they will have to bring in an external leader to take over.
“The problem is that in the past the Iraqis have reacted very badly to having foreigners being involved in the insurgency.
“Overall, there has been a movement away from al Qaeda. The focus in Iraq now is much more on how the next government will be constituted and how aggravated potential insurgents feel about being left out.
“The Iraqi government will want this to be shown as a very big thing, but whether it improves security in Iraq is an open question.
“It’s hard also to know who really is in al Qaeda because allegiances shift from day to day. Someone might say they’re al Qaeda one day and a part of the (U.S.-backed) Sons of Iraq on another.
“The far bigger question now is how the post-election situation shapes up.
MUSTAFA ALANI, GULF RESEARCH CENTER
“Last year the government showed Baghdadi captured on official TV and then this was denied by the insurgents. I believe Maliki lost credibility as a result. So I don’t think Maliki is going to risk losing his credibility a second time without verifying the identity.
“At the same time we must ask whether Baghdadi is real. It’s a possibility that he is a fictitious character used by al Qaeda. Al-Masri is different - we have photos and a video dating back three years and so his identity is much easier to match.
“Overall al Qaeda is Iraq is diminished compared to the days of (former al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (who was killed in 2006). But if all the major attacks of recent times that the government attributes to al Qaeda really were done by al Qaeda, then it is still major force to be reckoned with.
“Although the government finds it very easy to stick these attacks on al Qaeda, it is not necessarily the case that al Qaeda was responsible. How far that allegation is true we don’t know.
JEREMY BINNIE, EDITOR, JANE’S TERRORISM AND SECURITY MONITOR
“If it’s true, it’s the highest profile counter-terrorism victory since the killing of Zarqawi in 2006. It’s a good story for the government. But al Qaeda-aligned groups still present an incredibly serious threat to Iraqi security.
“The backdrop is that you have a government that is very keen to stress its security credentials, and at the same time bombs are going off to undermine those credentials.
“It’s worth bearing in mind that this statement contradicts their statement of last year about the alleged capture of Baghdadi.
PETER HARLING, ANALYST, INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP
“From what we’ve seen in the past killing leaders like this has never made that much of a difference.
“At this point the (al Qaeda) movement has a very loose formation. It’s structured in a way that has no hierarchy. It’s more of a loose grouping of individuals who agree on an interpretation of Islam. So this latest event won’t make all that much difference.
“This political situation in Iraq is very volatile at the moment, so while this will be good for Maliki and make headlines for 48 hours it will be forgotten amid the ongoing post-election story. The next government is the talk of the town.
Compiled by Nick Carey in Baghdad and William Maclean in London
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