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World News

April 20, 2010

Iraqi military kills top two leaders of al-Qaida in Iraq

(Continued)

Al-Maliki's bid to keep the prime minister's office received a second boost yesterday when Iraq's election commission announced it would recount ballots cast in Baghdad, after complaints of fraud lodged by al-Maliki's coalition. The recount could potentially give the Iraqi prime minister's bloc more seats than Allawi's.

Allawi has charged that Iraqi security forces have been unfocused since the election.

But Biden, President Barack Obama's point person on Iraq, said the deaths of the al-Qaida leaders underscored their overall improvement.

"The Iraqis led this operation, and it was based on intelligence the Iraqi security forces themselves developed," said Biden, who came before reporters in the White House briefing room to draw added attention to the results.

U.S. military officials have been highlighting the role of Iraqi security forces as American forces draw down. Under a plan outlined by Obama, all combat forces will be out of Iraq by the end of August, leaving about 50,000 U.S. forces in the country for such roles as trainers and support personnel. Those forces will leave the country entirely by the end of 2011.

The U.S. military said the early Sunday raid that killed the two al-Qaida leaders was launched after intelligence gathered during joint operations over the last week led security forces to the elusive leaders' safehouse about six miles (10 kilometers) southwest of Tikrit.

Al-Maliki said ground forces surrounded the house and that rockets were fired from the air. The U.S. military said an American UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter crashed during the assault, killing one U.S. soldier and wounding three others; the crash was not believed to have been caused by enemy fire.

The two al-Qaida leaders were inside the house. Al-Masri's assistant and al-Baghdadi's son, both suspected of being involved in terrorist attacks, also died in the raid and 16 other suspects were arrested, the military said.

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