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U.S. forces kill mosque bomber in Iraq

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BAGHDAD (Reuters) - U.S. forces said on Saturday they had killed the al Qaeda leader who masterminded the bombing that destroyed the twin minarets of the revered Shi’ite Golden Mosque in Samarra in June.

An earlier bombing of the mosque in February 2006 triggered a wave of tit-for-tat sectarian violence between majority Shi’ite and minority Sunni Arabs that has killed tens of thousands.

The U.S. military said Haitham al-Badri, the al Qaeda leader in Salahuddin province, was killed by U.S. forces on August 2.

They said he was responsible for the bombing of the Golden Mosque on June 13 this year that destroyed its minarets and sparked a series of revenge attacks on Sunni mosques.

“During an operation August 2 east of Samarra, Coalition Forces killed ... Haitham al-Badri, the al-Qaeda in Iraq emir of Salahuddin province. He is also the terrorist mastermind responsible for the Golden Mosque bombing in Samarra on June 13,” the U.S. military said in a statement.

The Iraqi government has previously blamed Badri for the mosque attack in February 2006.

They said he was in charge of an al Qaeda unit consisting of two Iraqis, four Saudis and a Tunisian.

That bombing was a turning point for Iraq, lifting the lid on simmering tensions between Shi’ites and Sunni Arabs.