In several slightly varying claims, key officials in the alliance of tribesmen that works closely with the US have said that their forces were responsible for the death of Abu Ayyub al-Masri.
The al-Qa'ida leader was killed by tribal forces on Tuesday, one leader of the coalition told AFP in a phone interview.
"The clashes started between the Dulaim tribe, which is part of the Salvation Council, and Al-Qaeda at 9.00am and continued until 11.00," said Sheikh Hamid al-Hayis, of the Anbar Salvation Council, told AFP.
"They killed him along with two Saudi leaders and three Iraqis," he said.
The head of the council, Abd al-Sattar al-Rishawi, made a similar, but slightly varying claim on Iraqi television on Tuesday, saying that his fighters had tracked down and killed al-Masri, and adding that seven of al-Masri’s associates were also killed, the AP reports.
"Eyewitnesses confirmed his death and their corpses are still at the scene," al-Rishawi said. Rishawi said that the body could not be retrieved as the area is still under al-Qa'ida control, AP reports.
Thirdly, Police Lt. Col. Jabbar Rashid al-Dulaimi, also a member the Anbar Salvation Council, said Wednesday that al-Masri was killed along with two aides when an explosives belt he was wearing detonated during fighting northwest of Baghdad. He based his claim on information from informants, the AP reports.
Al-Dulaimi identified the two aides as Mullah Qahtan al-Marawi and Ismail al-Iraqi.
Confusion reigns over the report of al-Masri’s death. Without hard evidence, the newest set of slightly varying tribal claims can only be added to the list of contradictory reports about the alleged killing, including the time and nature of the reported killing, and the number of associates killed alongside al-Masri.
US and high-ranking Iraqi officials have refused to confirm al-Masri’s killing.
A spokesperson for the Iraqi Interior Ministry first made the claim of the Egyptian militant’s death on Tuesday, saying that al-Masri had been killed in “internal fighting” between militants.
The “Islamic State of Iraq” issued a statement denying al-Masri’s death, and the Iraqi Interior minister has refused to confirm the claim that his spokesperson had earlier advanced. Iraqi officials have said that they seek al-Masri’s body for confirmation.
US officials have not confirmed the reports, and have said that the US will wait for confirmation.
In another discrepancy, some Iraqi media reported that al-Masri was killed a week ago, not on Tuesday.
Al-Hayis dismissed “Islamic State of Iraq” denial, AFP reports. Any group that bombs civilians is capable of telling lies, he said.
Al-Masri, under an alias, was named “minister of war” in the “cabinet” of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq last month.
Al-Hayis also confirmed that the Anbar Salvation Council was cooperating with Sunni resistance groups not linked to al-Qa'ida, including groups led by officials from the old regime, which have attacked US forces in the past and which have the stated goal of driving out the US military presence from Iraq, AFP reports.
"We have differences with them but we are all against Al-Qaeda and now we are ready to repel any revenge attack," al-Hayis said.
AFP’s report did not elaborate on the extent of the cooperation.
Many in the Anbar Salvation Front have tribal or family links to the Sunni-based nationalist resistance movements, and had participated in armed activity against the US occupation before allying with the US and the Iraqi government against al-Qa'ida.