Baghdad: Al Qaeda`s second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri has in an audio taped message paid homage to two of his associates killed in Iraq last month.
Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is also expected to release an audio message to honour the dead pair, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Ayub al-Masri, in the next few days, according to jihadist websites on Thursday.
"You, al-Baghdadi, were a great leader of the Islamic State of Iraq, you knew how take it over most ably from your comrade in arms, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi," said the taped message, aired by Al-Jazeera TV, which is yet to be authenticated.
The al Qaeda affiliated Islamic State of Iraq is an umbrella group made up a number of insurgent groups. Jordanian-born Al-Zarqawi, who was believed to have personally carried out a series of beheadings, died in an air raid on his hideout in Iraq in 2006.
Al-Baghdadi was the political leader of al Qaeda in Iraq.
He and al-Masri, an Egyptian militant who was the insurgent group`s self-styled "minister of war", were killed on April 18 in a joint US-Iraq operation near the northern city of Tikrit.
Al Qaeda linked Somali insurgent group Al-Shabab, al Qaeda`s North African branch al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and several other Islamist militant groups operating in the Gaza Strip have all released messages of condolences.