A top al-Qaeda in Iraq leader, said to be responsible for the bombing deaths of five American soldiers, was killed last week when his car was struck by a missile fired by a US helicopter, officials revealed yesterday. Abu Yasir al-Saudi, from Saudi Arabia, was in charge of operations in southeast Mosul. His death brought to 142 the number of al-Qaeda in Iraq members killed or captured in Mosul in the last two months.
Mosul is a hotbed of militant activity because its crossroads location and diverse ethnic mix make it easy for foreign fighters to blend in and join Iraqi insurgent groups. "It is their strategic center of gravity," said a US Navy admiral. Up to "two-thirds of attacks in Iraq today are in and around Mosul." Al-Saudi was said to have trained and fought in Afghanistan before being sent to Mosul in August.