Ansar al-Sunna claims killing of Christian Iraqi general


DUBAI - The Al-Qaeda linked Army of Ansar al-Sunna claimed it had killed a Christian general in the Iraqi police force earlier this week in northern Iraq, in a statement posted on an Islamist website on Friday.

"On the main Baghdad road in the northern city of Kirkuk, a group of fighters ... attacked the head of the police, a Christian general, with assault rifles," said the group in an overnight statement.

"The general was killed and the knights returned safely to base," it said.

The authenticity of the statement could not be confirmed.

Police had said earlier that General Waed Yussuf Yacoub was shot dead late on Wednesday as he drove home in the northern oil city of Kirkuk.

The general, who worked at the interior ministry and was a pillar of the Christian community in Kirkuk, was gunned down when a car pulled up alongside his vehicle, they said.

Yacoub, a member of the Chaldean-Assyrian Church, helped recruit Christians to Kirkuk's police force.

Iraq's 700,000 Christian community has been targeted by rebels since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in April 2003 and many members of the dwindling minority have fled the country.

The Army of Ansar al-Sunna has claimed a string of attacks in Iraq, including murders of foreign hostages and Iraqis accused of "collaborating" with US-led forces. It has released video footage showing some of the killings.

The group also claimed a December 21, 2004 attack on a US base in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul that killed 22 people, including 14 US soldiers.

03/18/2005 08:47 GMT - AFP