(Edited from AP, Baghdad) Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has gotten a much-needed boost from the killings of two al-Qaida leaders and a court-ordered recount of some votes from the indecisive election at a time when he is fighting for his political life.

(Edited from AP, Baghdad) Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has gotten a much-needed boost from the killings of two al-Qaida leaders and a court-ordered recount of some votes from the indecisive election at a time when he is fighting for his political life.

Even rival politicians acknowledge the joint U.S.-Iraqi operation Sunday that killed the al-Qaida leaders was a significant achievement for a prime minister who has seen his reputation for bringing stability to the country tarnished by a string of bombings in central Baghdad that have killed hundreds.

“What Maliki is saying is that ‘We’re not sliding into civil war and I’m the man that’s preventing that,’” said Toby Dodge, an analyst with the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.

Al-Maliki is keen to burnish his image as the leader who can secure Iraq, especially at a time when U.S. troops are preparing to go home.

He called a news conference Monday to announce the killings of al-Qaida leaders, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri, in Iraq; in an attack on their safe house near Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit.

Other Iraqis agreed that the prime minister’s image has improved as a result of the killings of the al-Qaida leaders – what the U.S. military called potentially the most significant blow to al-Qaida since the insurgency began.

“This act increases people’s confidence in al-Maliki to protect the country,” said Qassim Mussa, a 35-year-old Shiite from Baghdad.

Al-Maliki won another victory Monday when a court ruled in favor of his demand for a recount of 2.5 million votes in Baghdad – something that could make his secular rival Ayad Allawi’s fragile two-seat lead in parliament disappears.

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