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Monday, October 1, 2007      New: Take a Stand

Last letter from doomed Al Qaida chief: 'We are so desperate for your help'

BAGHDAD The U.S. military is eliminating Al Qaida's chain of command in Iraq.

Officials said several leading aides to Al Qaida network chief Abu Ayoub Al Masri have been killed by the U.S.-led coalition. They said two out of the four foreign aides of Al Masri remain alive.

On Sept. 25, the U.S. military killed an Al Qaida chief deemed responsible for transporting foreign operatives to Iraq, Middle East Newsline reported. The Al Qaida commander, identified as Abu Osama Al Tunisi, was killed in a U.S. air strike as he met his colleagues in Musayib, about 60 kilometers south of Baghdad.

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Shortly before he died, Al Tunisi wrote a letter that warned of a threat to Al Qaida operations in Karkh. The lettter, found by the U.S. military, sought guidance from Al Qaida leaders amid coalition operations that hampered Al Tunisi's network.

"We are so desperate for your help," the letter read.

"This was a dangerous terrorist who is no longer a part of Al Qaida in Iraq," U.S. Brig. Gen. Joseph Anderson, chief of staff of the Multinational Corps Iraq, said. "His death deals a significant blow to their operation. Abu Osama Al Tunisi was one of the most senior leaders within Al Qaida in Iraq."

Anderson said Al Tunisi and two other Al Qaida operatives were killed in the U.S. Air Force bombing mission. The brigadier told a Sept. 28 briefing that an F-16 multi-role fighter leveled the building where Al Tunisi had been meeting Al Qaida operatives.

Al Tunisi was said to have been a leading adviser to Al Masri, officials said. They said Al Tunisi, a Tunisian national, might have been designated Al Masri's successor.

"The inner circle of leadership with Abu Ayoub Al Masri consists of foreigners, and Al Tunisi was in this top tier of leadership," Anderson said.

This was the second leading aide of Al Masri killed in less than a month. On Aug. 31, another member of Al Masri's inner circle, Abou Yaakoub Al Masri, was killed near Tarmiyah, north of Baghdad. Anderson said the two remaining foreign leaders of Al Masri's inner circle remain at large.

"The top two Iraqis, Abu Shahed and Abdallah Latif Al Jaburi, have also been captured or killed," Anderson said.

Al Tunisi was termed the emir, or commander, of foreign operatives in Iraq. Anderson said Al Tunisi was responsible for the arrival of Al Qaida recruits into Iraq and their placement in operational cells.

Officials said more than 80 percent of suicide bombings have been by foreign operatives. They said most of the Al Qaida recruits arrive in Syria by air and continue overland into Iraq.

Al Tunisi was said to have been operating in Yusufiyah, southwest of Baghdad, since November 2004. Officials said he became commander of the area in 2006 and was responsible for the abduction and killing of two U.S. soldiers in June of that year.

The U.S.-led coalition operation began on Sept. 12 when an Al Tunisi aide was captured. Officials said the aide provided information that led to the capture of other key associates of Al Tunisi south and west of Baghdad.

One of the aides was said to have identified Al Tunisi at the meeting in Musayib. The other two Al Qaida insurgents killed in the F-16 bombing were identified as Abu Abdullah, said to be the new commander of the southern part of Baghdad's Karkh region, and Sheik Hussein, an Al Qaida facilitator.

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