Most al Qaeda leaders in Iraq killed: US general

Most al Qaeda leaders in Iraq killed: US general Washington: The top US commander in Iraq said on Saturday that most of the top leaders of al Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq have been captured or killed over the past three months.

Gen. Ray Odierno also told a news conference at the Pentagon that he is confident that he can safely reduce US troops levels to 50,000 by the end of August, as promised by President Barack Obama.

There are now 88,000 US troops there, the general said. Odierno said he expect al Qaeda in Iraq to remain a problem for years, despite its recent losses.

"Over the last 90 days or so we have either picked up or killed 34 of the top 42 al Qaeda in Iraq leaders," he said. Even with those setbacks, the militant organisation is trying to reconstitute itself, he said.

Odierno also said he does not believe that security in Iraq will deteriorate during the period of US withdrawal. He said the reason is that Iraqi forces are taking the security lead throughout the country, with US troops mainly advising and assisting them.

Odierno met with Obama on Wednesday at the White House.