The group’s “religious emir.” He was captured and released in 2004. “Key Figure in al-Qaida in Iraq Killed,” from AP, :
A key al-Qaida in Iraq leader described as the group’s “religious emir” was killed in a U.S. airstrike hours before two American soldiers went missing and in the same area, the military said Tuesday.
Mansour Suleiman Mansour Khalifi al-Mashhadani, or Sheik Mansour, and two foreign fighters were killed as they tried to flee in a vehicle near the town of Youssifiyah, in the so-called Sunni “Triangle of Death.”
U.S. coalition forces had been tracking al-Mashhadani for some time, American military spokesman William Caldwell said in announcing his death. He said al-Mashhadani was an Iraqi, 35 to 37 years old, and that one of the men killed with him was an al-Qaida cell leader identified as Abu Tariq….
Caldwell said the Iraqi militant played a key religious and recruiting role in the group. The spokesman said Mansour was linked to the senior leadership, including Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed in a June 7 U.S. airstrike, and Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the man the U.S. military has identified as al-Zarqawi’s replacement.
Mansour “reportedly served as a right-hand man of Zarqawi’s, and also served as a liaison between al-Qaida in Iraq and the various tribes in the Youssifiyah area, as well as playing a key role in their media operations,” Caldwell said….
The U.S. military captured Mansour in July 2004 because of his ties to the militant groups Ansar al-Islam and Ansar al-Sunna, but released him because he was not deemed an important terror figure at the time, the spokesman said.