The head of al-Qaeda in Iraq is dead, according to the Iraqi government. Abu Ayyub al-Masri was killed in a skirmish between rival groups of militants, officials said today, suggesting the possibility of exploitable rifts in the Sunni insurgency. The U.S. military has not verified the claim because a body has not been produced or identified.
Al-Masri succeeded Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed in June by a U.S. air strike; the U.S. then announced a $5 million bounty on al-Masri. Whether or not his death indicates splintering in the insurgent ranks, it is unlikely to cause a drop in violence, because al-Qaeda in Iraq is increasingly decentralized.