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Unconfirmed reports say that Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the organisation's Egyptian-born leader, was killed either by local Sunni tribes or other insurgents at a bridge at Raji, north of Baghdad.
"Iraqi security forces and multinational forces are trying to retrieve the body for visual identification and DNA tests," a spokesman for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said. However, an Iraqi umbrella insurgent group denied the claims.
Al Masri became leader of al-Qa'ida in Iraq in June 2006. The US and the Iraqi government have been trying to encourage a breach between al-Qa'ida and other insurgents for almost as long as the four-year-old war has lasted. So far, there has been little sign of success. There is the additional problem that anti al-Qa'ida Sunni groups are often equally anti-American.