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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 June 2006, 16:27 GMT 17:27 UK
US shows photo of 'Zarqawi heir'
Abu Ayyub al-Masri
The US says it believes Muhajir and Masri are the same person
The US military has released an image of a man it believes is the successor to the slain leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

A US spokesman said the new leader was an Egyptian militant based in Baghdad, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, who was also known as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir.

Al-Qaeda on Monday said Zarqawi had been replaced by Abu Hamza al-Muhajir.

The US said it expected Muhajir to continue the tactics of Zarqawi, killed in a US air strike in Iraq last week.

"Nothing indicates to us that he will do differently because he has been in this country for over three to four years now," Major General William Caldwell said.

'Zarqawi aide'

A website used by Islamic militants described Muhajir earlier this week as a veteran of holy war.

The statement on the website said al-Qaeda's council had unanimously agreed to name Muhajir as Zarqawi's successor.

"We ask God that he... continue what Sheikh Abu Musab began," the statement said.

Analysts at the time said the name Muhajir - a pseudonym, believed to be Arabic for immigrant - suggested he was not Iraqi.

Speaking on Thursday, Gen Caldwell said: "We think that Abu Ayyub al-Masri is in fact, probably, Abu Hamza al-Muhajir."

He described Muhajir as an "al-Qaeda operative, a direct associate of Zarqawi and facilitator of foreign fighters from Syria".

The Egyptian-born militant is believed to have trained in Afghanistan and helped Zarqawi form the first al-Qaeda cell in Baghdad.

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