BAGHDAD, May 21 (UPI) -- The slain leaders of the Iraqi branch of al-Qaida are revered for their role in the organization, the second-in-command for al-Qaida said in an audio tape.
Al-Qaida in Iraq confirmed in April that its leaders Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri were killed in Tikrit in a joint U.S.-Iraqi military operation.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden had called the deaths a "potentially devastating blow" to al-Qaida in Iraq.
A voice thought to be that of Ayman al-Zawahiri, the deputy commander of the central branch of al-Qaida, praised the leadership in an audio tape aired Friday by al-Jazeera TV.
"You, al-Baghdadi, were a great leader of the Islamic State of Iraq, you knew how take it over most ably from your comrade in arms, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi," he said in the message.
Zarqawi, a leader of al-Qaida killed by U.S. forces in 2006 in Iraq, had pledged to destroy the Iraqi government through sectarian violence.
The Indo-Asian News Service added Friday that an audio tape from al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden honoring the Iraqi militants is expected soon.
Al-Qaida in Iraq announced last week that Nasser al-Din Abu Suleiman was the new minister of war of its so-called political wing, the Islamic State of Iraq, the Long War Journal and number of other terrorist monitoring groups on the Internet note.
In the announcement, the new leader warned Iraqi Shiites the coming days would be "colored in blood." He added that al-Qaida fighters in Iraq would exact revenge for the deaths of previous leaders.