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Killings Raise Questions About Insurgents’ Tactics

In an Internet statement, the militant group al-Qaida in Iraq claimed responsibility for killing two U.S. soldiers. Terrorism experts discuss the tactics and leadership of insurgents in Iraq.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Now, more on the people who today claimed responsibility for the soldiers' kidnappings and deaths. Lawrence Wright is a staff writer for the New Yorker magazine. He's written extensively on al-Qaida and is author of the forthcoming book, "The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11."

    Alexis Debat is a senior fellow at the Nixon Center, former official in the French defense ministry. He's also a terrorism consultant for ABC News.

    Lawrence Wright, what do you make of these claims that the new leader of al-Qaida in Iraq personally killed these two soldiers?

  • LAWRENCE WRIGHT, The New Yorker Magazine:

    Well, if he's trying to follow in Zarqawi's footsteps, that's how Zarqawi made himself known to the world: by slaughtering an American live on the Internet. And, you know, he put himself out there as a rival to bin Laden and to Zawahiri.

    I think that his successor wants to let us know that he's also a force to be contended with.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Do you agree with that?

  • ALEXIS DEBAT, The Nixon Center:

    Absolutely. I think a big part of al-Qaida in Iraq's strategy in Iraq involves the media. And this is really al-Masri stepping into the spotlight, if you will.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    And al-Masri is saying, by this act, I'm just like Zarqawi or worse, or what's the message here?

  • ALEXIS DEBAT:

    It's hard to say. Al-Masri is certainly not like Zarqawi. He's much more of a professional terrorist; he's much more political. He's also apparently…

  • JIM LEHRER:

    What does that mean, more professional, more political?

  • ALEXIS DEBAT:

    He is a former member of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which was active in Egypt in the 1980s. And he is a follower, if not a protege, of Ayman al-Zawahiri. And he has…

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Remind us who he is now.

  • ALEXIS DEBAT:

    Ayman al-Zawahiri is al-Qaida's number two.

  • JIM LEHRER:

    Number-two guy, below Osama bin Laden.

  • ALEXIS DEBAT:

    Below Osama bin Laden, very much the strategist behind Osama bin Laden. Abu Ayyub al-Masri has been living in Zawahiri's shadow for a very long time, learning at the feet of the master, if you will. And in that regard, he can be considered as much more — I mean, really much more political, which is using violence much more discriminately, but for a mass effect.

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