Al-Qaida in Iraq on Wednesday denied that its leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
, was among those killed in a weekend gunfight in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.
In a statement posted on an Islamic Web site that often carries terrorist reports, al-Qaida said it delayed responding to the rumors of al-Zarqawi's death "until this lie took its full length to let Muslims know the extent of (the media's) stupidity and shallow thinking."
On Sunday, Iraqi and US soldiers
fought a fierce gunbattle after reports that al-Qaida members, possibly including al-Zarqawi, were inside a house in Mosul. Three insurgents detonated explosives and killed themselves to avoid capture and five more died in fighting, while four police officers also were killed.
Iraqi and US sources confirmed that DNA tests were underway to determine if al-Zarqawi was among the dead, though the White House
said reports of al-Zarqawi's death were "highly unlikely and not credible."