BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Coalition troops killed the al Qaeda terrorist who masterminded the February 2006 attack on Samarra's al-Askariya mosque and set off continuing violence and reprisal killings between Sunnis and Shiites, the U.S. military said Sunday.
The attack on Samarra's al-Askariya mosque set off violence between Sunnis and Shiites.
Haitham Sabah al-Badri, the al Qaeda emir of greater Samarra, was killed by an airstrike Thursday east of Samarra, said Rear Adm. Mark Fox during a news conference.
"Eliminating al-Badri is another step in breaking the cycle of violence instigated by the attack on the holy shrine in Samarra," Fox said. "We will continue to hunt down the brutal terrorists who are intent on creating a Taliban-like state in Iraq."
Coalition forces Thursday raided four buildings outside Samarra that were associated with al-Badri, according to a U.S. military news release. During the raid, at least four armed men were seen leaving the buildings and setting up tactical fighting positions in an effort to ambush coalition forces, the release said.
The coalition forces called in close air support, killing al-Badri and the three others, the release said.
One of those killed was identified as a foreigner; al-Badri was identified by his close associates and relatives, the military said.
El-Badri's death was first reported Saturday by a high-ranking Iraqi Interior Ministry official.
No one was injured in the attack on the Golden Mosque, one of the holiest Shiite sites, but thousands have been killed by the death squads and reprisal bombings that have ravaged Iraq in the 17½ months since the attack.
In addition to the February attack that collapsed the mosque's dome, another bombing in June destroyed the shrine's two remaining minarets.
Al-Badri is believed to have been involved in other attacks, including two last year, Fox said -- the June 23 bombing of a Kirkuk courthouse that left 20 Iraqis dead and the August 28 attack at a Samarra checkpoint that killed 29 Iraqi soldiers.
Samarra is in Salaheddin province, north of Baghdad.
Mortar attacks kill 11
Two mortar rounds struck a gas station in a mainly Shiite neighborhood in eastern Baghdad on Sunday, killing at least 11 people and wounding 15 others, a spokesman with Iraq's Interior Ministry said.
The attack in the Afdhailiya neighborhood happened about 8 a.m. (12 a.m. ET), the spokesman said.
Suicide bombers attacked two gas stations Wednesday, killing 70 people, Reuters reported.
Meanwhile, coalition forces said Saturday they killed four suspected militants and detained 18 thought to have helped make or plant roadside bombs, the U.S. military said.
The militants were suspected of coordinating logistical support from Iran for elements of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army and other Shiite militias operating in Iraq, the military said.
Iraqi family upset with U.S. soldier's sentence
A U.S. soldier has been sentenced to 110 years in confinement for participating in the rape of a 14-year-old girl and the killings of her and her family in Iraq, an Army spokeswoman said.
The girl's family told Reuters on Sunday they were dismayed by the punishment and would have preferred to see the death penalty handed down in the case.
Pfc. Jesse Spielman was convicted Friday of rape, conspiracy to commit rape, housebreaking with the intent to commit rape and four counts of felony murder.
The girl, her parents and younger sister were shot dead in March 2006 in Mahmoudiya, south of Baghdad.
"We were expecting the death penalty against those criminals and the place to carry out the sentence is where the incident happened," the girl's cousin, Abu Ammar, told Reuters.
Her uncle, Hadi Abdullah, told the wire agency that family members wished there was a way to appeal the sentence so the death penalty could be imposed.
Three soldiers have previously pleaded guilty in the case and were given sentences ranging from five to 100 years. The accused ringleader, former Pvt. Steven Green, was discharged from the Army and awaits trial in a civilian court.
CNN's Pierre Bairin and Mohammed Tawfeeq contributed to this report.