Iraq latest

There are conflicting reports about whether Al Qaeda's top operative in Iraq has been killed. The Iraqi Interior Ministry claims the leader died in an insurgent firefight - and not as the result of coalition attack.

ABC's Gloria Riviera tells what that might mean.

U.S. Military officials said if Abu Ayyub Al Masri is dead it would be a setback, but not a defeat for Al Qaeda. Just as significant is the possibility Al Masri was killed not by the United States, but by a rebel faction of the Sunni insurgency - that would signal a serious divide within Al Qaeda.

Al Masri became the head of Al Queda in Iraq after former leader Abu Musab Al Zarqawi was killed in a U.S. air strike in June 2006. The United States soon placed a $5 million bounty on Al Masri's head. United States and Iraqi officials had hoped Zarqawi's death would significantly weaken Al Qaeda. If anything, under Al Masri, Al Qaeda attacks became more brazen, bloody and deadly.

Al Masri is accused of deepening the Sunni-Shia divide by supporting the desicration of the Holy Shiite Askariya Shrine in February 2006. Reports are saying there is friction between Sunni insurgent groups over the killing of civilians and the imposition of extreme Islam. This comes as the Shiite-led government tries to convince some of those Sunni-led groups to join the Democratic effort to stabliize the country.


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