By MAZIN YAHYA
The Associated Press
Friday, February 25, 2011; 10:06 AM
BAGHDAD -- Iraqi security forces killed the top military leader of an al-Qaida front group, surrounding his hideout and firing shots that blew up his booby-trapped getaway car, officials said Friday.
The slain militant, al-Nasser Lideen Allah Abu Suleiman, was the so-called war minister of the Islamic State of Iraq, an al-Qaida front group responsible for bombings and suicide attacks across Iraq, said Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, an Iraqi military spokesman.
The ISI is an umbrella organization of insurgent groups that includes al-Qaida in Iraq. It has been seriously weakened since the height of the Iraq war, but is still able to carry out deadly attacks.
On Thursday, security forces tracked Suleiman to Anbar province, said the chairman of the provincial council, Jassim al-Halbousi. When troops approached his hideout, Suleiman fled in a vehicle rigged with explosives, al-Halbousi said. Troops opened fire at the car, setting off an explosion that killed Suleiman.
Al-Moussawi said Suleiman was killed in Hit, a city 85 miles (140 kilometers) west of Baghdad.
Iraqi officials picked up Suleiman's trace while investigating a suicide bombing Thursday in the city of Ramadi, about 15 miles from Hit, al-Halbousi said. In that attack, an assailant blew himself up near a convoy carrying the deputy governor of Anbar province. Eleven people were killed, including seven policemen and a bodyguard. The deputy governor was slightly injured.
It was not immediately clear whether Suleiman played a direct role in the suicide bombing or what led authorities to his hideout.
Suleiman had been named "war minister" in May, after Egyptian Abu Ayyub al-Masri was killed in a U.S.-Iraqi military strike.
In an announcement of his appointment, Suleiman had threatened to attack military checkpoints and said there would be "dark days soaked with blood." Since then, little had been heard from him.
The announcement of his death was made to little fanfare Friday by Iraqi officials, who have touted such military coups in the past.
The American military said it did not play a role in the incident and referred all questions to the Iraqi government.