Gunmen kill Al-Qaeda leader in Fallujah

Unidentified gunmen shot dead the Al-Qaeda militant group's leader in the western Iraq city of Fallujah on Saturday, police said, as fighting between rival Sunni factions continued.

Colonel Tareq al-Dulaimi, a senior police intelligence officer with close ties to Anbar Province's pro-US tribal coalition, confirmed reports that Muwaffaq al-Jugheifi had been killed but did not identify the attackers.

Dulaimi described the slain Al-Qaeda leader as an Iraqi from Fallujah.

A police capitain, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "Militants riding in two civilian cars opened fire on al-Jugheifi and his group on Saturday morning as they left the Abu Ayyub al-Ansari mosque."

Fallujah is currently at the centre of a large-scale security operation in which Iraqi police and tribal levies, backed by US forces, are attempting to drive Al-Qaeda's Islamist militants out of the town.

Saturday's killing came after the Anbar Salvation Council, the armed wing of the province's tribal coalition, announced that it was sending plainclothes "secret police" to Baghdad to kill Al-Qaeda leaders.

The council, whose fighters included thousands of former insurgents, has fallen out with Al-Qaeda and thrown its lot in with US forces. It has sent gunmen to join the Iraqi police and pro-US tribal levies.

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