( AP ) - The U.S. military announced Wednesday that coalition forces killed a senior al-Qaida leader and his courier, both Turks, in an operation in northern Iraq.
Mehmet Yilmaz, also known as Khalid al-Turki, operated a cell that facilitated the movement of foreign fighters into Iraq for al-Qaida operations, U.S. Central Command said in a statement.
The courier was identified as Mehmet Resit Isik, also known as Khalil al-Turki, a close associate of Yilmaz and other senior leaders within al-Qaida.
The two men were killed in an operation June 23 south of Hawija, which is 150 miles north of Baghdad. Yilmaz was identified through a photo comparison and a forged Iraqi personal ID card, the statement said.
"These are two very dangerous, very significant international terrorists that are no longer part of the al-Qaida network," said military spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Garver.
The statement said Yilmaz led a group of Turks to Afghanistan in 2001 to fight against U.S.-led forces. Intelligence reports indicate he was wounded in the fighting and sought treatment in Pakistan, where the government captured him in 2004 and deported him to Turkey.
Yilmaz was released in late 2005 and returned to al-Qaida operations in 2006, moving his operations to Iraq, the statement said, adding that Turkish authorities are also investigating several terrorist operations that may have involved Yilmaz.
The events that led to his death began when coalition forces approached a targeted building. At that point, the statement said, four men got into a vehicle and drove away from the area.
Coalition forces followed the men, one of whom was believed to be Yilmaz. When the vehicle stopped, the men got out, holding their weapons. They died in a hail of gunfire.