Iraqi authorities are investigating reports that the alleged leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, has been killed in a struggle within his own group, the interior ministry said on Tuesday.
"There is intelligence information. Some information, you know, needs confirmation, but this information is very strong," says interior ministry operations director Brigadier General Abdel Karim Khalaf ."
"There were clashes within the groups of Al-Qaeda which lead to his death. Our forces had nothing to do with it," he added, in an interview on state television," adds Khalaf.
A US military spokesman could not confirm the report.
"I hope it's true, we're checking, but we're going to be doubly sure before we can confirm anything," said Lieutenant Colonel Chris Garver, noting that several previous reports of Masri's death had proved unfounded.
US officials say Masri, who is allegedly also known as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, is an Egyptian car bomb specialist who heads Al-Qaeda's Iraq's subsidiary. The US State Department has put a one million dollar bounty on his head.
Two months ago there were reports in the Iraqi media that Masri had been wounded in a shootout with Iraqi soldiers, but these later proved false.