Iraqi officials are doing DNA tests on a slain militant to determine if he is al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the deputy interior minister said Thursday. But the U.S. military said it was "highly unlikely" the terror chief had been killed.
An Iraqi Defense Ministry spokesman, Mohammed al-Askari, told Al-Arabiya television that the body "is not that of al-Masri." But he did not elaborate whether the tests had been completed.
U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Barry Johnson said a number of al-Qaida suspects were killed in a recent raid in western Anbar province and initially "we thought there was a possibility al-Masri was among them."
"As we did further analysis, we determined that it was highly unlikely that he was killed," Johnson told the Associated Press.
Deputy Interior Minister Maj. Gen. Hussein Kamal said the raid took place two days ago, but he and Johnson refused to give further details. Two Arab satellite television stations reported that the militants were killed by U.S. forces during a raid near Haditha.
"We suspect one of those killed is Abu Ayyub al-Masri. We are holding DNA tests to find out if he is," Kamal told AP.
According to AP, on Sunday, Iraq's national security adviser, Mouwafak al-Rubaie, told reporters U.S. and Iraqi forces were closing in on al-Masri.
But on Wednesday, U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. Willian Caldwell sounded more skeptical.
"I'd love to tell you we're going to get him tonight," he told reporters. "But, obviously, that's a very key, critical target for all of us operating here in Iraq. ... We feel very comfortable that we're continuing to move forward very deliberately in an effort to find him and kill or capture him."