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Al-Zarqawi Survived U.S. Air Strike, Died Shortly After

Iraqis in Al-Najaf today celebrating the death of al-Zarqawi (epa) WASHINGTON, June 9, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Details of the air strike that killed Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, are still emerging a day after his death was announced in Baghdad.

U.S. Major General William Caldwell said today that Iraqi police arrived at the bomb-shattered house shortly after the June 7 air strike to find al-Zarqawi still alive.

In a teleconference briefing from Baghdad for reporters at the Pentagon in Washington, Caldwell said the Al-Qaeda leader was on a gurney and seemed to be trying to speak, though his words couldn't be understood.

"If [Zarqawi] said something to the Iraqi police, I am not aware of it," Caldwell said. "According to the reports by the coalition forces that arrived on site, he mumbled a little something, but it was indistinguishable, and it was very short."

Trying To Get Up

Caldwell said al-Zarqawi also seemed to be trying to get up from the gurney.

"According to the person on the ground, Zarqawi attempted to, sort of, turn away off the stretcher," he said. "Everybody re-secured him back onto the stretcher, but he died almost immediately thereafter from the wounds he had received from this air strike."

There was no indication that al-Zarqawi was trying to escape.

The U.S. military said the leading insurgent in Iraq was identified first by visual clues -- his facial appearance, as well as scars and other unique marks he was known to have. Soon afterward al-Zarqawi was more reliably identified through fingerprints.

Meanwhile, samples of body tissue have been sent to a laboratory of the U.S. FBI outside Washington for DNA testing, which would determine the identity nearly conclusively. Results of these tests are expected by June 12.

No One Informant

Caldwell said the air strike was the culmination of an intense two-week search for al-Zarqawi. The general said no one witness or piece of evidence led to the Al-Qaeda leader. Instead, he said, the suspect's whereabouts was pieced together from a patchwork of information.

"The information we had was never somebody coming forth and saying, 'At this time, at this place, you will find Zarqawi in this building.' That did not occur," Caldwell told journalists. "In fact, it was the result of some tremendous work by coalition forces, intelligence agencies, partners in our global war on terrorism, that all came together, feeding different parts and pieces to allow us to build that puzzle, to establish the patterns, the methods, the techniques, which allowed us to track and then monitor things which led us to that building, that night, to find Zarqawi in there."

The rubble of the house where al-Zarqawi was killed (epa)

Caldwell said that among those killed along with al-Zarqawi apparently were three women and three men, including Abu Abdul-Rahman, al-Zarqawi's spiritual mentor. He said no child was among the dead, contrary to earlier reports.

The general said more revisions of the death toll and other elements of the air strike could be forthcoming because facts about the incident were still being sorted out.

Violence Will Not End Soon

U.S. President George W. Bush, meanwhile, again today expressed satisfaction that al-Zarqawi's career is over. But he repeated yesterday's caution that the Al-Qaeda leader's death will not end the violence in Iraq.

"I'm thrilled that Zarqawi was brought to justice, and I am so proud of our troops and intelligence officers who brought him to justice," Bush said. "This man has a lot of blood on his hands. He killed a lot of people, and it is a big deal to have brought him to justice. Having said that, I don't want the American people to think that a war is won with the death of one person."

Bush made his comments during a brief news conference with Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen at Camp David, the presidential retreat outside Washington.

Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi

Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi

Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi(undated AFP file photo)

COMMITTED TO TERROR: Jordan-born Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi has been among the most visible and ruthless leaders of Iraq's post-Saddam Hussein insurgency. In a tape released earlier this month, al-Zaqawi called on Iraqi Sunnis to fight against Shi'a and labeled Shi'ite spiritual leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani an "atheist."
Insurgents loyal to Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi's Al-Qaeda-affiliated organization have regained control over much of Al-Anbar Governorate, and are posing a major challenge to U.S. and Iraqi forces. A local security force established by tribesmen under an agreement with the U.S. military has all but ceased operating, after nearly a dozen tribal leaders were assassinated in revenge attacks by insurgents loyal to al-Zarqawi's Mujahedin Shura Council since January. Local tribal leaders now say they are afraid to be seen associating with U.S. forces, lest they be targeted by insurgents....(more)


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THE COMPLETE PICTURE: Click on the image to see RFE/RL's complete coverage of events in Iraq and that country's ongoing transition.

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