Is Terror Leader Al-Zarqawi Dead?

Abu Musab al Zarqawi, al-Zarqawi CBS

U.S. forces sealed off a house in the northern city of Mosul where eight suspected al Qaeda members died in a gunfight — some by their own hand to avoid capture. A U.S. official said Sunday that efforts were under way to determine if terror leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was among the dead.

Insurgents, meanwhile, killed an American soldier and a Marine in separate attacks over the weekend, while a British soldier was killed by a roadside bomb in the south.

In Washington, a U.S. official said the identities of the terror suspects killed in the Saturday raid was unknown. Asked if they could include al-Zarqawi, the official replied: "There are efforts under way to determine if he was killed."

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.

CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports there is no hard forensic evidence to confirm al-Zaraqwi's death. The claim has been made on Web sites out of the Middle East, but those sites have been wrong before, he says.

Martin reports that once the Mosul house was surrounded, insurgents blew themselves up, filling the house with body parts and charred flesh. U.S. troops have taken the flesh and blood samples

On Saturday, police Brig. Gen. Said Ahmed al-Jubouri said the raid was launched after a tip that top al Qaeda operatives, possibly including al-Zarqawi, were in the house in the northeastern part of the city.

During the intense gunbattle that followed, three insurgents detonated explosives and killed themselves to avoid capture, Iraqi officials said. Eleven Americans were wounded, the U.S. military said. Such intense resistance often suggests an attempt to defend a high-value target.

American soldiers controlled the site Sunday, and residents said helicopters flew over the area throughout the day. Some residents said the tight security was reminiscent of the July 2003 operation in which Saddam Hussein's sons, Odai and Qusai, were killed in Mosul.

In other developments:

  • Hospital patients, prisoners and members of the Iraqi security forces will be allowed to vote three days early in the country's first parliamentary elections since a new constitution was adopted, an electoral commission official said Sunday.

    The "special voting" will take place on Dec. 12, Farid Ayar said. The rest of the country will vote on Dec. 15 for legislators who will serve for four years, he said.

  • In Washington, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said on ABC's "This Week" that commanders' assessments will determine the pace of any military drawdown. About 160,000 U.S. troops are in Iraq as the country approaches parliamentary elections Dec. 15.

    The Pentagon has said it plans to scale back troop strength to its pre-election baseline of 138,000, depending on conditions. Rumsfeld said the U.S.-led coalition continues to make progress in training Iraqi security forces, which he placed at 212,000.

    Rumsfeld also said talk in the United States of a quick withdrawal from Iraq plays into the hands of the insurgents.

  • While in China, President Bush again responded to Rep. John Murtha's call to pull troops out of Iraq. CBS News chief White House correspondent John Roberts reports that Mr. Bush was careful to say that while he disagrees with Murtha's policy he respects the Congressman. The gentle language stood in contrast to an earlier White House attack which compared Murtha
    • Joel Roberts

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