By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service
Sept. 28, 2007 - A top al Qaeda leader who coordinated efforts of foreign terrorists in Iraq was killed this week, a senior official in the region announced today. Abu Usama al-Tunisi, a foreigner who brought al Qaeda terrorists into Iraq, was killed Sept. 25 in an air strike on a building south of Baghdad where he was meeting with other al Qaeda operatives, Army Brig. Gen. Joseph Anderson, Multinational Corps Iraq's chief of staff, said in a briefing to reporters in the Pentagon.
The meeting was near Musayyib, in Babil province, about 35 miles south of Baghdad. An Air Force F-16 bombed the building. A video provided by defense officials shows a large explosion and the building leveled. Two other al Qaeda members were killed in the blast, and two were detained, Anderson said.
Tunisi was a close associate, and part of the inner circle of advisors to Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the overall leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, Anderson said. Officials believe he may have been tapped to succeed Masri.
Originally from Tunisia, Tunisi was the emir of foreign terrorists in Iraq, responsible for overseeing foreign terrorists' movements into Iraq and partnering them with terrorist cells. More than 80 percent of suicide bombings are carried out by foreign terrorists, Anderson said.
Tunisi has been operating in Yusufiyah, southwest of Baghdad, since November 2004 and became emir of the area in 2006. Tunisia's group is believed responsible for the June 2006 kidnappings of two U.S. soldiers who later were found dead.
Anderson said Tunisi's death was the culmination of a series of operations that began Sept. 12 when coalition forces captured a close associate to Tunisi. During the following days, forces ramped up operations and detained several other key associates of Tunisi in separate operations south and west of Baghdad. One was said to have identified Tunisi at the meeting, Anderson said.
The two others killed were Abu Abdullah, reported to be the new emir of the southern part of Baghdad's Karkh region, and Sheikh Hussein, an al Qaeda in Iraq facilitator, Anderson said.
A handwritten letter found at the site indicated that Tunisi's operations were cut off by coalition forces in the area and that he was trying to get direction from leaders, Anderson said.
"We are so desperate for your help," the letter reads.
"This was a dangerous terrorist who is no longer a part of al Qaeda in Iraq," Anderson said. "His death deals a significant blow to their operation."
Abu Yakub al-Masri, another inner-circle leader, was killed Aug. 31 near Tarmiyah, north of Baghdad. Of Abu Ayyub al-Masri's inner circle of four foreign leaders, only two remain at large, Anderson said.