U.S.-led forces killed a top al Qaeda figure linked to kidnappings of Westerners, including a U.S. journalist and a slain peace activist from Virginia, the military said Thursday. Mourners gathered at his home in a Sunni insurgent stronghold north of Baghdad.
In political developments, Sunni politicians accused Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of refusing to share power, as Iraq came under pressure from its neighbors to include all factions in decision-making.
The strongly worded statement by the National Accordance Front, which has 44 of parliament's 275 seats, did not issue a direct ultimatum but was issued on the opening day of a major international conference on Iraq in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik in a bid to remind the world of what the group sees as the gross failings of al-Maliki's government.
The announcement of the death of al Qaeda propagandist Muharib Abdul-Latif al-Jubouri came after days of conflicting government reports that the top leaders of the terror group and its front organization — the Islamic State of Iraq — had been killed.
In other developments:The military is putting already-strained troops at greater risk of mental health problems because of repeated deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, a Pentagon panel said Thursday in warning of an overburdened health system.The U.S. should not shirk its responsibilities as a global leader or withdraw from the fight against terrorists just because Americans are weary of the fight, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday. Two days after President Bush vetoed legislation setting a deadline for a troop withdrawal from Iraq, Gates said there is no end in sight to the long war against violent extremists. "Our country is troubled and divided by a long and difficult war, a war whose end is not yet in sight," Gates said in remarks prepared for delivery to the Dallas Chamber of Commerce. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met Syria's foreign minister Thursday during a regional conference on Iraq in the first high-level talks between the two countries in years. The main topic of discussion will be Syria's border with Iraq, reports CBS News correspondent Sheila MacVicar. The United States has long accused Syria of allowing foreign insurgents to enter Iraq through its borders. Nearly 4,000 American soldiers are pouring into Baghdad this week, the fourth of five brigades being sent to strengthen an 11-week-old crackdown aimed at quelling sectarian violence, the U.S. military said Wednesday. Four Filipino contractors working for the U.S. government were killed in a rocket attack on the heavily fortified Green Zone, the American Embassy said Thursday. It was the third straight day that the U.S.-controlled area in central Baghdad was hit by rockets or mortars, heightening concerns about security in the area that is home to the U.S. and British embassies and thousands of American troops.
Chief spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said the military did not have the bodies of al Qaeda boss Abu Ayyub al-Masri or Islamic State leader Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and did not know "of anybody that does."
He said the confusion apparently stemmed from misunderstandings by Iraqi security forces as al-Jubouri's body was being transported in Baghdad after it was released to his tribe. But he played down implications that it was a symptom of a broader problem of communication between U.S. and Iraqi forces, saying instead it showed that the Iraqis were doing their jobs.
"They at least knew that they had somebody who was very significant," he said, adding that was "a very positive thing.""
The Islamic State of Iraq confirmed in an Internet statement that al-Jubouri, whom it called its official spokesman, had been killed, but it denied the death of al-Baghdadi.
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