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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 September, 2004, 11:46 GMT 12:46 UK
US missile 'kills Zarqawi aide'
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
Zarqawi's group are the most active insurgents in Iraq
The suspected spiritual leader of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's Tawhid and Jihad group has been killed in a US air strike in Iraq, reports say.

Sheikh Abu Anas al-Shami was killed when a missile hit his car on Friday, according to relatives in Jordan.

The sheikh is believed to have written the group's fatwas or religious rulings and Mr Zarqawi's speeches.

Mr Zarqawi, the most wanted man in Iraq, heads the group thought to have killed two US hostages since Monday.

The US military had said it conducted a "successful precision strike" west of Baghdad on Friday, targeting a gathering of about 10 Zarqawi supporters.

Jordanian press reports quote the family saying that Mr Shami's car was hit by a missile as he was driving in an agricultural area in the Abu Ghraib region .

Relatives in the Jordanian capital Amman have been receiving condolences for the death since Tuesday, reports say.

Fundamentalist background

Also known as Omar Yousef Jumah, Mr Shami is reported to have gone to Iraq after the US invasion last year.

Clerics close to the family quoted by Associated Press said they had been surprised when they heard he had joined Tawhid and Jihad.

He had been a leading member of a small Salafist movement in Jordan that advocated the peaceful introduction of strict Islamic law in the kingdom, they said.

That was after studying Islamic theology in Saudi Arabia, they said.

Mr Shami lived in Kuwait until the Iraqi invasion in 1990 and, in the late 1990s, the Jordanian government reportedly closed down an Islamic centre that he had founded in Amman.



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