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Iraq: Villagers In Al-Zarqawi's Hideout Were Unaware Of His Presence

Villagers didn't know the bearded man who 'wore wide pants' was Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi (file photo) (AFP) Radio Free Iraq (RFI) correspondent Salim Husayn went to the village of Arab Shogah, in Hibhib County, Diyala governorate, Iraq, on June 9, 2006, to talk to the residents of Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi's last hiding place.

Man 1 (name not given): "About at 6:15 [p.m. local time on June 7], U.S. airplanes and U.S. forces arrived from this direction, from this main road. At first, we heard a sound as if an anti-aircraft missile hit a house. It was a very strong explosion. Very strong, scary.

"After that, about a minute later, another explosion followed. Guys from the village hurried there, to the house, because a family of civilians lived there: a man, a woman, and two children. So they hurried from the village to save them. Some five guys went there. Among the people they drew out from there, they also carried al-Zarqawi himself. But, from the features of his face, they didn’t know it was al-Zarqawi. One of them said: 'We pulled a man with [a] long beard and hair who was near to breathing his last.'

"As soon as the Americans came, they stripped the police of all their arms and made them sit aside, making no difference between them and the other people seized."

"We carried him to the river because he wanted us to pour some water on him and wash him, to wash his face. There were still signs of life in him. None of us noticed that the Americans came. When the Americans came, they saw him and called: ‘Zarqawi! Zarqawi!’ These were his last moments [of life].

"There are many witnesses here, of course. The five guys were arrested by the U.S. forces. But even before the Americans came, [Iraqi] police arrived. As soon as the Americans came, they stripped the police of all their arms and made them sit aside, making no difference between them and the other people seized. Only when the operation ended, they released the police at midnight. The guys who had hurried to save the people in the house were released at 2 [a.m. local time, June 8]."

RFI: What do you expect that the security situation in Hibhib County will be like now?

Man 1: "The leader has died but his people have remained. I don’t suppose that the situation will improve or get calmer because the man’s gang has remained. "


Man 2, introduced as Yasin: "We were in the garden when the air strike happened. We came here because police were standing there. A medical emergency team was with them…"

The rubble of a destroyed house near where Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi was killed by a U.S. air raid on June 7 (epa)

RFI: What did you see from the operation? Whom did they get out of [the house]?

Man 2: "They got off women and children. They got off two chaps."

RFI: Who were the two? Was al-Zarqawi among them?

Man 2: "It was he, it seems. He looked liked him."


Man 3, name not given: "People didn’t know him. They saw someone bearded and wearing wide pants."


RFI: Who was staying in the house?

Man 4, name not given: "I didn’t see anyone live there. I only saw children around."

RFI: Did you see a man live there before?

Man 4: "No, no one."

RFI: Didn’t you see al-Zarqawi?

Man 4: "No, I didn’t see him."

RFI: Did you see the dead bodies?

Man 4: "They took out three bodies."


Man 5, name not given: "I saw there is now a very large hollow on the place of the house. Although bulldozers arrived to adjust the place, the hollow is still very big. There are many things in it. Some stuff shows as if an office was there. There are items on learning to work on computer, things on how to connect it with printer or USB, catalogues, and things like that.

"There were journals, some international journals on politics, things on the Iranian program and the like. There are also religious books, explaining the teachings of the [Islamic] religion. But I didn’t see any fanaticism in them. I have gone through them and didn’t find any kind of extremism."

RFI: How about weapons?

Man 5: "I didn’t see any weapons because the Americans came and didn’t [leave] anything. After the Americans left, a woman’s body remained there. During the day, police were called and took it."

(Translation by Petr Kubalek.)

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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