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US air strike kills Al Qaeda kingpin in Iraq

American forces killed an Al Qaeda chieftain in the lawless western Iraqi city of Ramadi by destroying his car with a laser guided bomb, the US military said on Thursday.

�Rafa Abdul Salam Hamud Al Ithawi, also known as Abu Taha, was the emir of Shamiyyah,� it said. �He frequently harboured foreign fighters who entered Iraq illegally in order to assault innocent Iraqis and coalition forces.�

Ithawi was killed on Wednesday along with his driver, �diminishing the Al Qaeda in Iraq network,� the statement said.

Ramadi has become the focus of the battle between US forces and Sunni Arab insurgents fighting under the Al Qaeda banner. Last week a US spokesman said marines were fighting to take back the city.

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