WASHINGTON– Iraqi and coalition forces have struck a severe blow against al-Qaida in Iraq, a senior coalition spokesman said in Baghdad today. Army Brig. Gen. David Perkins, a spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq, said one al-Qaida leader killed was responsible for the abduction and murder of Army Staff Sgt. Keith “Matt” Maupin in June 2004.

The blows against al-Qaida will have significant effects on the terrorist network, he said.

“In the last two months, coalition and Iraqi forces have detained 136 people who played key roles in al-Qaida in Iraq, along with taking part in the network structures throughout Iraq and having links to other places throughout the world,” Perkins said during a news conference.

Coalition and Iraqi forces combined to kill Haji Hammadi, one of the founders of al-Qaida in Iraq, who was the terror organization’s leader in Karmah and Abu Ghraib, an area west of Baghdad. “Hammadi was responsible for planning and conducting attacks against coalition forces, Iraqi forces, government officials and Iraqi citizens,” Perkins said.

The terror leader most recently was responsible for a June 26 attack in Karmah. Hammadi escorted a suicide bomber disguised as an Iraqi policeman to the attack location and then videotaped the attack, Perkins said. The attack killed 20 Iraqis, including the mayor of Karmah and several sheiks. The attack also killed U.S. Marines.

Hammadi also was responsible for the abduction and murder of Maupin in 2004, Perkins said. Maupin, an Army reservist with the 724th Transportation Company, was kidnapped April 9, 2004. His status was missing/captured until March 28 of this year, when officials at Dover Air Force Base, Del., identified remains as his.

“The removal of a cold-blooded killer of innocent Iraqis and coalition personnel will further degrade the ability of al-Qaida to carry out these attacks,” Perkins said.

The killing of another al-Qaida leader shows the growth of cooperation among coalition forces, the Iraqi military and the “Sons of Iraq” citizen security groups, said Army Col. Todd McCaffrey, commander of the 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team. A Sons of Iraq tip to the Iraqi army led to the death of Abu Ghazwan, a senior al-Qaida leader in the northern belt of Baghdad.

McCaffrey, who also spoke during the news conference, said the operation strengthened ties between the Sons of Iraq and the Iraqi security forces. Ghazwan was the leader of the terror organization in Baghdad’s northern belt, and he was killed in the village of Tarmiyah, where he had operated for the last two years.

“The Sons of Iraq actually killed Abu Ghazwan and brought his body back for identification,” McCaffrey said. “This renewed confidence on the part of the Sons of Iraq and the Iraqi army. We’re very positive about the cooperation between the two groups, and look forward to more in the future.”

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