Abu Azzam, a senior aide to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and the No. 2 al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, was shot dead in an apartment in Baghdad Sunday night.
Azzam “was a significant al-Qaeda leader,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said yesterday. The Iraqi Government may release a statement on Azzam’s death, Whitman said.
Also known as Abdallah Nahim or Abu Selwah, Azzam’s real name was Abdallah Muhammed Al-Juhaari, U.S. military spokeswoman Lieutenant Michelle Lunato said today in a telephone interview from Baghdad. He was called the al-Qaeda Emir in Baghdad, she said, and had a $50,000 U.S. bounty on his head.
The effect on the insurgency remains to be seen as the death or capture of key al-Zarqawi deputies in the past hasn’t led to a decrease in the number of suicide bombings in Iraq.
U.S.-led troops and members of the Iraqi Security Forces raided an apartment in a residential high-rise building in the capital at 4:50 a.m. on Sept. 25 in response to a tip, according to Lunato. They intended to arrest him “but they were fired upon and returned fire, killing Azzam,” she said.
An unidentified person was injured in the fighting, Lunato said. Azzam is believed to have been Palestinian and may have entered Iraq in April 2005, Agence France-Presse quoted National Security Advisor Muwafiq al-Rubaie as saying today.
“Azzam was the main organizer and gate-keeper of al-Qaeda in Iraq,” Lunato said. “Some of the recent terrorists captured by U.S. forces said he was as important as al- Zarqawi.” She said he personally directed and organized car bombings in recent weeks that killed hundreds of innocent civilians.
Al-Zarqawi, Iraq’s most wanted man and leader of al-Qaeda in the country, this month declared “all-out war” on Iraq’s majority Shiite Muslims in an audiotape broadcast by al- Arabiya.
A suicide bomber today killed eight people by setting off an explosive belt among a crowd outside a police recruitment center in Baquba, north of Baghdad, AFP reported, citing unidentified police. Another 24 people were injured in the attack at about 10 a.m. Baghdad time, AFP said.
Attacks across Iraq killed 13 people yesterday, including five Shiite Muslim teachers who were shot, by gunmen dressed as police officers, in front of primary school children, AFP said. Three U.S. soldiers also died in Iraq when the vehicles they were traveling in struck homemade bombs, the U.S. military said.
President George W. Bush told the U.S. public Sept. 22 to expect more insurgent attacks in Iraq before citizens there vote on a new constitution next month.
“They have a history of escalating their attacks before Iraq’s political milestones,” Bush said at the Pentagon. “We must be prepared for more violence.”
Bush has rejected calls to begin drawing down forces from Iraq and said the U.S. had “temporarily increased” troop levels ahead of Iraq’s Oct. 15 referendum “to ensure we can maintain this aggressive pace of military operations.” The U.S. now has 148,000 troops in Iraq, up from 140,000, according to Army Lieutenant Commander Barry Venable, a Pentagon spokesman.