By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
Aug. 5, 2007 - The senior al Qaeda terrorist believed to be the mastermind behind both bombings of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, Iraq, was killed during a coalition air strike, a Multinational Force Iraq spokesperson told journalists in Baghdad today. "Yesterday, the government of Iraq announced that the coalition force killed a senior al Qaeda terrorist, Haitham Sabah al Badri," said Navy Rear Adm. Mark Fox, spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq. "He was killed east of Samara on Aug. 2."
Al Badri, whose body was positively identified by family members, is believed to have masterminded both the February 2006 and June 2007 bombings of the Golden Mosque that ignited widespread sectarian violence. He also is thought to have been involved in an Aug. 28, 2006 attack on a Samara checkpoint that killed 29, as well as the June 23, 2006, bombing of the Kirkuk courthouse.
During the operation, coalition forces raided a series of four buildings associated with al Badri, Multinational Force Iraq officials reported. About four armed men moved from the targeted buildings into outdoor tactical fighting positions in what ground forces viewed as a set-up to ambush approaching coalition forces. Responding to the hostile threat, they called in close-air support.
The strike killed al Badri and three other terrorists, one of them a foreign fighter. Ground forces also found weapons on site and detained seven other suspected terrorists.
Fox called eliminating al Badri, considered al Qaeda's emir of greater Samara, another step in breaking the cycle of violence instigated by the attack on Samarra's holy shine. While this is one more broken link in al Qaeda's chain, Fox said the coalition is not relaxing.
"We've always felt that, even in a weakened state, al Qaeda is very dangerous," he said. "Our approach to how we handle that is to take down the car-bomb networks, is to go after these different nodes and cells."
Fox said the Iranian-backed "secret cell" poses another force for coalition and Iraq forces to turn their attention. "(They) are apparently rogue or splinter, he said. "We're going after those kinds of rogue elements just like we're going after al Qaeda."