Iraq says Saddam Hussein aide, insurgent leader al-Douri 'killed'

BAGHDAD (REUTERS) - A former aide to late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and a leader of Iraq's insurgency, Ezzat Ibrahim al-Douri, may have been killed by Iraqi forces and Shi'ite militias involved in an operation against insurgent forces.

Raed al-Jubouri, the governor of Salahuddin province, told al-Arabiya television that al-Douri had been killed, and the station broadcast a photo of a dead man who looked like al-Douri.

"This is a major victory for those involved in the operation," al-Jubouri said. "He is considered a mastermind for this terrorist group," he said, referring to Islamic State, an offshoot of al Qaeda which has taken swathes of Syria and Iraq. "For sure this will have an impact on them ... There will be a break among them," he said.

Baghdad has mounted an offensive against Islamic State and former Baathists once loyal to Saddam Hussein to retake territory in Iraq's Sunni heartland captured by jihadists last summer. Al-Douri was believed to be a key figure in that insurgency.

While Baghdad has announced al-Douri's death several times before, this time photos were circulating showing a man with similar features and red hair like al-Douri's. DNA from the body will be tested to confirm it is him, al-Jubouri.

Ahmed al-Kraim, the head of Salahuddin provincial council, said news of al-Douri's death was not confirmed and intelligence officers who tracked his movements did not believe he was the man in the photographs.

Khaled Jassam, a member of the security committee in Salahuddin provincial council, said the committee were 70 per cent sure al-Douri had been killed but were awaiting medical tests.