The leader of al Qaeda in Iraq was wounded and one of his top deputies killed today in a firefight with Iraqi police north of Baghdad, according to an Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman, Brig. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, on Thursday.
CNN cites the Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman as reporting that Iraqi police encountered an insurgent group on the road between Falluja and Samarra and, in a firefight, wounded Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri and killed Abu Abdullah al-Majamiai.
Al-Masri assumed the leadership of the radical Sunni Islamist group after the death of its founder, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, last year.
According to CNN, the Interior Ministry spokesman also said that Iraqi police have the body of al-Majamiai, but would not comment on the whereabouts of al-Masri. The U.S. military has yet to release a statement.
FRIDAY MORNING UPDATE: A "senior U.S. official, who requested anonymity" has said that the military does not believe the Iraqi police wounded al-Masri, according to CNN.
The Iraqi Interior Ministry is standing by the account, and a spokeman asserted that the U.S. wouldn't know about the operation because only Iraqi police were involved. He also said al-Masri escaped and is on the run.
The Washington Post reported Al Qaeda confirmation of Mujamie's death, but confusion on al-Masri's injury:
"A senior al-Qaeda in Iraq leader, Abu Amar al-Dulaimi, confirmed the death of Mujamie, whom he described as Masri's 'personal escort,' but questioned whether Masri was even in the area. 'We don't know if was with him or not, or if he was wounded or not,' Dulaimi said Thursday night in a phone interview."
However, USA Today is reporting a completely different story. They cite an Iraqi Army officer as saying that al-Majamiai had been in police custody since February 9, in a jail near Mahmoudiya, about 20 miles south of Baghdad.
USA Today also cites the al-Qaeda-affilated Islamic State of Iraq as posting a message on the Web accusing the Iraqi government of "making up such news, that have been denied even by their masters, the Americans."