Thursday, June 8, 2006
The head of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, has been killed in an air strike on a building north of Baqubah city, according to the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
“Today [sic] Zarqawi has been terminated,” he said Thursday, and suggested the man the United States had placed a $25 million price tag on for death or capture was located through intelligence.
“What happened today is a result of co-operation for which we have been asking from our masses and the citizens of our country,” he said.
The leader of coalition forces in Iraq, General George Casey said al-Zarqawi was killed in a two-storey safehouse about 8 km north of the city in Diyala province.
Several aides also died with him in the Wednesday evening raid by U.S. F-16 warplanes, including his key lieutenant and spiritual adviser Sheik Abdul Rahman. Some analysts believe a US counter-terrorism unit, Task Force 145, was involved in the attack.
Al-Zarqawi’s body, recovered after two 500-pound bombs had blown through his cover, was identified through fingerprint, tattoo and scar analysis and head likeness. Al-Zarqawi, whose real name was Ahmed Fadhil Nazzal al-Khalayleh, was believed to be in his late 30s when he died of injuries while US forces gave medical aid.
The first munition exploded at 6:15pm was a GBU-12 laser-guided bomb that was shortly followed by the newer GBU-38; both carried 500lb of explosives for total cost of $40,000.
The self-proclaimed frontman for Osama Bin Laden’s activities in Iraq, al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian national, is said to have been involved in the beheading of foreigners, hundreds of suicide attacks, and an insurgency against coalition forces after the Iraq war in 2003.
It had been reported Al-Zarqawi’s most recent campaign was to create problems between Shi’ite and Sunni groups in Iraq with ethnic killings.
For the Iraqi government the killing of the wanted murderer is what they sought but it remains unknown what effect the removal of this known figurehead of the Iraq insurgency will have on levels of violence in the country. Al-Zarqawi was not the only person to oppose the US-backed Iraqi government.
“Zarqawi didn’t have a number two. I can’t think of any single person who would succeed Zarqawi … In terms of effectiveness, there was no single leader in Iraq who could match his ruthlessness and his determination,” was the view of Rohan Gumaratna at the Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies in Singapore.
Applause was heard as Mr Maliki, with U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and U.S. Gen. George Casey, by his side, told news reporters “al-Zarqawi was terminated.”
Sources claiming to be Al-Qaeda in Iraq later confirmed that al-Zarqawi had been killed and said that they would fight the United States and the interim Iraqi government despite his death.
United States President George Bush spoke to journalists in the White House Rose Garden about al-Zarqawi’s death. “Zarqawi’s death is a severe blow to al-Qaeda. It’s a victory in the global war on terror, and it is an opportunity for Iraq’s new government to turn the tide of this struggle,” he said.
The US military also confirmed that six people were killed in the strike, including al-Zarqawi, and his spiritual adviser Sheikh Abd al-Rahman The death toll is reported at three men, three women. Some reports had said al-Zarqawi’s wife and daughter died. However U.S. officials state that there is no evidence confirming the death of al-Zarqawi’s wife and daughter.