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Al-Qaeda's Zarqawi killed by US aircraft

Posted by By Mariam Karouny on 2006/06/08 | Views: 1186 |

Al-Qaeda's Zarqawi killed by US aircraft

U.S. aircraft killed al Qaeda leader in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the insurgent leader who masterminded the death of hundreds in suicide bombings and was blamed for the videotaped beheading of foreign captives.

U.S. aircraft killed al Qaeda leader in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the insurgent leader who masterminded the death of hundreds in suicide bombings and was blamed for the videotaped beheading of foreign captives.

In one of the most significant developments in Iraq since the capture of Saddam Hussein in 2003, Jordanian-born Zarqawi was killed in a U-S.-Iraqi operation which was assisted by intelligence information from Amman, officials said on Thursday.

Zarqawi, whom Osama bin Laden called the prince of al Qaeda in Iraq, had come to symbolize the radical Islamic insurgency against U.S. occupation, but it was too early to say what effect his death would have on Sunni-Shi'ite tensions racking Iraq.

"Today Zarqawi has been terminated," Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki announced at a televised news conference with the top U.S. commander in Iraq, General George Casey, prompting applause and cheering from Iraqi journalists.

"Every time a Zarqawi appears we will kill him," Maliki said. "We will continue confronting whoever follows his path. It is an open war between us."

Jordanian government spokesman Nasser Joudeh said: "There has been early exchange of intelligence information with the United States that helped in the operation that killed Zarqawi."

The followers of Zarqawi, who had declared war on Iraq's majority Shi'ite Muslims reinforcing fears that he was out to ignite civil war, still posed a security threat to the Iraqi government, U.S. officials said.

Casey said the body of Zarqawi, thought to be in his late 30s and who had a $25 million U.S. bounty on his head, had been identified and that details of the circumstances of his death would be revealed later on Thursday.

Maliki, who had been desperately in need of a success to bolster his authority as prime minister, said seven Zarqawi aides were also killed in the raid in the city of Baquba 65 km (40 miles) north of the capital.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Zarqawi's death was a blow against al Qaeda everywhere. President Bush was expected to make a statement at 1200 GMT.


U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said the death of Zarqawi, whom he called the "godfather of sectarian killing in Iraq," marked a great success. But the ambassador and Casey cautioned that it will not end violence in the country.

Two bombs in Baghdad, which killed a total of 15 people and injured 36 others on Thursday, gave a grim reminder of the violence besetting the country.

The announcement of Zarqawi's death had an impact on oil prices. Crude futures were down more than one dollar to $69.82.

Zarqawi, had inspired an apparently endless supply of militants from across the Arab world to blow themselves up in suicide missions in Iraq.

Some posters of the most wanted man in Iraq show him in glasses, looking like an accountant, others as a tough-looking man in a black skullcap.

Zarqawi appeared on a video in April unmasked for the first time, meeting his followers, firing a machinegun in the desert and condemning the entire Iraqi political process.

Iraqi and U.S. officials said he had formed a loose alliance with Saddam's former agents, benefiting from their money, weapons and intelligence assets to press his campaign.

"Zarqawi didn't have a number two. I can't think of any single person who would succeed Zarqawi," Rohan Gunaratna from the Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies in Singapore said. "In terms of effectiveness, there was no single leader in Iraq who could match his ruthlessness and his determination."

The brother of Ken Bigley, a British engineer beheaded by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's group, said the militant leader should rot in hell. "The man was an animal and he deserved what he got. And may he rot in hell," Paul Bigley told Channel Four news.

Arab web sites reflected reverence and revulsion.

"Thank God this wayward infidel is dead," wrote Azizi on al Saha Web site ( "It's enough that he's an ally of Osama bin Laden, the sheikh of terror and terrorists. All true believers have been relieved of his evil."

Others hailed Zarqawi as a martyr and a hero.

"The sky does not suffer from the death of a star ... and there will be no sadness for you, Abu Musab, as your death is actually the wedding of a martyr. You will reside in paradise."

The killing of Zarqawi could give a political boost to Maliki, who has made it his mission to crush the Sunni Arab insurgency against the U.S.-backed government.

Iraq's parliament approved on Thursday Maliki's candidates for new defense and interior ministers.

The two key security jobs were left temporarily vacant when Maliki's government of national unity took office on May 20 because of intense wrangling among his coalition partners.

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Comments (9)

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