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Al Qaeda killings show growing competence of Iraqi Army

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'Iraqis have taken the lead'

Mr. Biden said the capture represents the changing character of the Iraqi security forces, based on their own intelligence gleaned from a capture of another Al Qaeda leader recently.

“In short, the Iraqis have taken the lead in securing Iraq and its citizens by taking out both of these individuals,” Biden said.

In another rare public statement, Gen. David Petraeus, head of US Central Command, echoed Biden's conclusions: “Their deaths constitute another major milestone in the effort to defeat extremism in Iraq.”

Mr. Masri replaced Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed in 2006, as leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq. Mr. Baghdadi, whom the Iraqi government has twice pronounced killed, was the self-proclaimed leader of the Islamic State of Iraq, a group of several insurgent organizations.

The earlier, unsubstantiated announcements of Baghdadi’s death led some to wonder if the individual was even real. Today, US and Iraqi officials said that DNA evidence confirmed it was Baghdadi.

Will it blunt violence?

While the killing of these leaders will no doubt create a “leadership crisis,” resulting in a “lack of focus and discipline,” the impact on violence in Iraq will only become clear in the longer term, says Stephanie Sanok, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank in Washington.

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