Iraqi police found the bodies of two prominent al-Qaeda leaders last month in a house in the western suburb of the city of Radhwaniya, southwest of Baghdad, apparently the victims of an internal al-Qaeda dispute.
The incident prompted officials to discuss the broader implications of the growing internal dissentions and disputes within al-Qaeda in Iraq.
These disputes between al-Qaeda leaders have reached their apex, officials said.
"This was the fourth incident of its kind in about a month as it seems as if al-Qaeda has begun to devour itself," Col. Hikmat Mahmoud al-Masari, director of media and communications at the Iraqi Interior Ministry, said.
"Security forces have information confirming that serious differences exist among the organisation's leaders in Iraq, which relate to doctrinal and ideological disputes concerning the nature and kind of terrorist attacks launched, and those targeted by these attacks," al-Masari said.
"There [are people in] al-Qaeda cells that do not see killing Iraqi civilians, especially children and women of the families of security men, and raids on banks and shops, as what they came for, or why they joined al-Qaeda, so they are feeling that they were misled and cheated," he added.
Abu Ghraib police chief Col. Sabah al-Falahi said two al-Qaeda leaders, Hameed al-Bakry and Salah Shehatha, were "both among the new al-Qaeda leaders wanted by the police".
"They were killed by bullets in an al-Qaeda stronghold in the Zawbaa village in Radhwaniya," he said.
"Initial investigations indicate there was a meeting inside that house, followed by a quarrel and shouts, and then shooting, which ended in the death of the two leaders and the injury of three others," al-Falahi said, citing testimonies from neighbourhood residents.
"Many bullet marks […] could be seen everywhere inside the house," he added.
Interior Ministry spokesperson Maj. Gen. Adel Dahham said the incident is a "positive sign indicating al-Qaeda is eroding from the inside, as it can no longer control the members under its command".
Hassan al-Sunaid, chairman of the Iraqi parliament's defence and security committee, said that internal disputes like these could destroy the terrorist organisation.
"Information obtained from security forces and the intelligence service point to the likelihood of serious dissentions within al-Qaeda, which could lead to the collapse of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq project," he said.
"True, pressure from security forces was a notable reason for the disorder within al-Qaeda, but the Iraqi people are the main cause, because their rejection of al-Qaeda and refusal to allow its members take up posts inside cities and residential quarters made this organisation fall into chaos and lose hope in sustaining its terrorist activities," al-Sunaid said.
Sheikh Khalaf al-Sayyad, leader of the Albu Fahd clan, to which the dead al-Qaeda leader Salah Shehatha had belonged, said, "The road of terror is very short."
"Many of us advised [Shehatha] to leave al-Qaeda, but both his mind and his heart were brainwashed," said Sheikh Khalaf al-Sayyad. "Everyone abandoned him; even his wife and children left him, and he moved among cities like scared prey."
"This is the fate of anyone who gets involved in shedding innocent blood. I believe he got his due, whether he was killed by security forces or by his cohorts in crime," al-Sayyad said.