An Iraqi intelligence team has hunted down and killed two senior al-Qaeda leaders, Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, has said.
Maliki on Monday showed reporters pictures he said showed Abu Ayub al-Masri, the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the purported leader of al-Qaeda's local affiliate, the Islamic State of Iraq, before and after their deaths.
Speaking a news conference, Maliki said that Iraqi intelligence agents had found the two men in Salehiddin province on Saturday after assistance from the United States.
Maliki said the US military had carried out DNA tests on the bodies to establish their identities.
If the deaths are confirmed they could mark a significant success over al-Qaeda, which has been blamed for a wave of violence across the country.
"The death of these two terrorists is a potentially devastating blow to al Qaeda in Iraq," the US forces in Iraq said in a statement.
The Iraqi government has previously claimed to have captured or killed Baghdadi on several occasions and the US military has even questioned whether he is an actual person or a fabricated figurehead.
Baghdadi was last claimed to have been killed last April, but the Islamic State of Iraq denied the claim and said he was "fine", the SITE Intelligence Group said, according a statement released on internet forums on May 11, 2009.