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Alleged Killer Of 2 GIs Killed In Iraq

A Jordanian who was responsible for slaughtering two U.S. soldiers last month was fatally wounded in a clash with security forces, a senior Iraqi official said Tuesday.

Diyar Ismail Mahmoud, known as Abu al-Afghani, was identified as the killer of the two soldiers, Iraqi National Security Adviser Mouwafak al-Rubaie told reporters. The two soldiers' mutilated bodies were found after they were taken prisoner following a clash near Youssifiyah.

A third American was killed in the clash.

Al-Rubaie did not say when Mahmoud was wounded or when he died.

The bodies of two soldiers from the 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division were found on June 19 not far from a checkpoint on the Euphrates river south of Baghdad where they were abducted.

The discovery of Pfc. Kristian Menchaca of Houston and Pfc. Thomas Tucker of Madras, Ore. - both of whom were badly mutilated and at least one beheaded - came after exhaustive searches with thousands of soldiers fanning out in an area south of Baghdad known as the "Triangle of Death" because of frequent attacks.

A third soldier, David J. Babineau, 25, of Springfield, Mass., was found dead at the checkpoint where the soldiers were killed two days earlier.

The three had been assigned to the 1st Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment - the same unit as five soldiers and one former Army private who now face charges in the alleged rape and murder of a teenage girl in Mahmoudiya last March.

The Mujahedeen Shura Council, an umbrella of extremist groups, claimed in an Internet statement that the three soldiers were killed last month in retaliation for the rape-murder. U.S. officials say they have no evidence to substantiate the claim.

The killing of the Americans followed the June 7th death of al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in a U.S. airstrike northeast of Baghdad. Mahmoud was a top al-Zarqawi lieutenant, al-Rubaie said.

Al-Rubaie also says security forces have detained the leaders of the Omar Brigade group, a wing of al Qaeda in Iraq that claims to have carried many deadly attacks throughout the country.

He identifies the group's leader as Jassim Mohammed, known as Abu Othman, his deputy Abu Aisha, in charge of financing the group, and Abu Ihab, in charge of recruitment. The fourth is Abu Islam, who is chief of religious affairs, al-Rubaie said.

"The Omar Brigade is one of the death squads," al-Rubaie said, adding that the group was responsible for the deadly bombing in Baghdad's eastern neighborhood of Sadr City on July 1 that killed 66 people.

Al Qaeda in Iraq announced last year that it had formed the Omar Brigade to fight the Shiite militias. The group claimed to have killed many Shiite militia leaders since then.

Al-Rubaie refused to say, for security reasons, where the alleged Omar Brigade suspects were detained. He says the operation was carried out by Iraqi and multinational troops.

"This is a major blow to al Qaeda itself because this is a division that was trying to drive a wedge between Shiites and Sunnis," he said.

In other recent developments:

  • Nearly 6,000 civilians were slain across Iraq in May and June, a spike in deaths that coincided with rising sectarian attacks across the country, the United Nations said Tuesday.
  • Officials and witnesses say at least 53 people were killed and 105 wounded by a suicide bomber who struck Tuesday morning across the street from a major Shiite shrine in Kufa, hoping to line up work for the day. The attacker, driving a minivan, posed as an employer, had a group of job-seekers get in the van, which he then blew up. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, condemned the attack and promised to track down and punish those who planned it.
  • Also Tuesday, seven Iraqi police were killed and two were wounded in a bombing near Hawija.
  • U.S. military officials say three American soldiers were killed in separate attacks Monday - two in the Baghdad area and one in Anbar province west of the capital. At least 2,554 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
  • In the first 17 days of July, at least 617 Iraqis were killed in war-related violence, at least 527 civilians and 90 police and security forces, according to an AP count. In the nearly two months since the unity government took office on May 20, more than 1,850 Iraqis have been killed, including at least 1,585 civilians and 267 security forces. The figures do not include insurgents.
  • Monday, dozens of heavily armed attackers raided an open air market Monday in a tense town south of Baghdad, killing at least 50 people and wounding about 90 others. Police say most of the victims were Shiites. A Shiite television report put the death toll at 72, but religiously affiliated stations often favor high-end estimates of casualties from attacks on their sects.
  • U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez arrived in the Iraqi capital for meetings aimed at jump-starting the economy. Gutierrez signed an agreement with the Iraqis to encourage foreign investment, acknowledging that the country's deteriorating security made that goal a challenge.
  • In Tokyo, Japan's Kyodo News agency said the last Japanese troops left Iraq on Monday and arrived in Kuwait, ending its two-year mission here. Japanese troops began their pullout July 7 from a base in Muthanna province, which was transferred to Iraqi control last week.
  • Saddam Hussein and three co-defendants are on the 11th day of a hunger strike over demands for better security for defense lawyers but their health remains good, a U.S. military spokesman said Monday.