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U.S., Iraq Disagree on Dead Insurgent's Identity

The U.S. military says a man recently killed in an attack was the minister of information for al-Qaida in Iraq. The Iraqi government says he's the head of an insurgent coalition that includes al-Qaida in Iraq. But the U.S. military isn't sure that man actually exists.

The confusion first erupted over claims that al-Qaida's top leader was killed, and then that the top figure in a group called the Islamic State of Iraq was killed. The Islamic State of Iraq emerged last fall as an umbrella group of insurgent forces operating in Iraq, with al-Qaida in the lead.

Thursday, the U.S. military tried to sort through the claims and counterclaims by disclosing that an important leader of al Qaida in Iraq has indeed been killed.

He was identified as Muharib Abdul-Latif al-Jubouri, the man known as the minister of information for al-Qaida in Iraq. Al-Jubouri was killed Tuesday north of Baghdad, in a U.S. operation against al-Qaida called Operation Rat Trap.

According to Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, spokesman for the U.S. military command, al-Jibouri participated in the kidnapping of Christian Science Monitor reporter Jill Carroll last year and the kidnapping of Tom Fox, the Christian peace activist who was killed last year.

Of al-Jibouri, Caldwell said, "Taking him off the street is a good thing."

But Wednesday, numerous reports based on statements from Iraqi officials claimed that it was Islamic State leader Abu Omar al-Baghdadi who had been killed. Baghdadi is a top figure in Iraq's jihadist insurgency.

After Caldwell identified the dead man as al-Jibouri, a spokesman for Iraq's Interior Ministry, Abdul Karim Khalaf, claimed that the two names belonged to one and the same person.

Caldwell cast doubt on the claim that al Baghdadi exists at all. "We're not really sure who that is," he said.

The confusion might have stemmed from what happened to al-Jibouri's body once the U.S. military determined who he was.

Caldwell said it was released Wednesday to a member of his tribe for burial. At a police checkpoint in Baghdad, it was seized again after someone recognized it from a police alert.

Eventually, the body was turned over to Americans a second time for identification — but not before the Iraqi government might have made mistaken assumptions about who it really was.

Caldwell said the body of al-Jibouri was eventually released again for burial late Wednesday.

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