Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, briefing military reporters at the Pentagon from his post in Baghdad, said he learned that al-Zarqawi was alive after getting briefings on the military operation that netted al-Zarqawi and several others.
"He mumbled something but it was indistinguishable and it was very short," Caldwell said.
The U.S. military earlier had displayed images of the battered face of al-Zarqawi and reported that he had been identified by fingerprints, tattoos and scars. Biological samples from his body also were delivered to an FBI crime laboratory in Virginia for DNA testing. The results were expected in three days.
Caldwell said Friday that authorities made a visual identification of al-Zarqawi upon arriving at the site of the air strike.
He said that when the terrorist "attempted to sort of turn away off the stretcher, everybody re-secured him back onto the stretcher. ... He died almost immediately thereafter from the wounds he'd received from this air strike."
"We did in fact see him alive," Caldwell said. "There was some sort of movement he had on the stretcher and he did die a short time later. There was confirmation from the Iraqi police that he was found alive."
Al-Zarqawi, who had a $25 million bounty on his head, was killed at 6:15 p.m. Wednesday after an intense two-week hunt that U.S. officials said first led to the terror leader's spiritual adviser and then to him. Through painstaking intelligence efforts, the U.S. military was able to track the advisor, establishing when he was linking up with al-Zarqawi, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports.
U.S. Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said at the time that the American air strike targeted "an identified, isolated safe house." Four other people, including a woman and a child, were killed with al-Zarqawi and Abu Abdul-Rahman al-Iraqi, the terrorist's spiritual consultant.
Caldwell said it was unclear whether al-Zarqawi was trying to get away as he writhed around on his stretcher.
Revising what military officials said Thursday, Caldwell said it now appears there was no child among those killed in the bombing. He cautioned that some facts were still being sorted out.
He said three women and three men, including al-Zarqawi, were killed.
"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," President Bush said at a with the Danish Prime Minister Friday. "This man had a lot of blood on his hands."
"Zarqawi's death helps a lot," Mr. Bush said, adding that "It's not going to end the war." He said al Qaeda followers and insurgents would try to show they have not been defeated by al-Zarqawi's death. "I'm trying to be realistic with the American people."
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki imposed a vehicle ban Friday on Baghdad and a volatile province to the north in an effort to prevent reprisal attacks from suicide car bombs after the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in a U.S. air strike.
CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reports there was a brief celebration after al-Zarqawi's death was announced, but almost immediately, violence resumed across Iraq. Five civilians were killed and three were wounded Friday during a firefight and five houses were demolished in the area of Ghalibiya, west of Baqouba, according to the regional joint cooperation center and Dr. Ahmed Rifaat of Baqouba General Hospital said.
The circumstances of the firefight were unclear. Gunmen also kidnapped a senior Iraqi oil official in Baghdad as he was returning home from work, the Oil Ministry's spokesman said Friday.
Police also found five unidentified bodies late Thursday of men who had been shot in the head in eastern Baghdad. And gunmen opened fire on Friday's funeral procession for the brother of the governor of the northern city of Mosul.