Iraq Terror Chief Killed In Air Strike

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi photo shown dead in US Military briefing
APTN/US Military
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the most-wanted terrorist in Iraq with a $25 million bounty on his head, was killed when U.S. warplanes dropped 500-pound bombs on his isolated safehouse northeast of Baghdad, coalition officials said Thursday.

U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell showed a picture Abu Musab al-Zarqawi with his eyes closed and spots of blood behind him after he was killed by an air strike. Caldwell also showed a video of the attack in which he said F-16 fighter jets dropped two 500 pound bombs on the site.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said al-Zarqawi was killed along with several aides, including spiritual adviser Sheik Abdul Rahman, Wednesday night in a remote area in the volatile province of Diyala, just east of the provincial capital of Baqouba, al-Maliki said.

Al Qaeda in Iraq confirmed al-Zarqawi's death and vowed to continue its "holy war," according to a statement posted on a Web site.

At the White House, President Bush said al-Zarqawi's slaying was "a severe blow" to the al Qaeda terrorist network and a decisive victory in the U.S.-led war against terrorism.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the U.S achieved "a significant victory" in the battle against terrorism. But he said the militant leader's death won't "mean the end of all violence" in Iraq.

Rumsfeld added that the al Qaeda-in-Iraq leader "personified the dark, sadistic and medieval vision of the future" held by Islamic militants.

In Baghdad, the Iraqi prime minister, flanked by U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and U.S. Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, told a news conference that "al-Zarqawi was eliminated."

But any hopes the Jordanian-born terror leader's death would help stem the violence in Iraq was dimmed hours later, with two bombs striking a market and a police patrol in Baghdad, killing at least 19 people and wounding more than 40. Later, a parked car bomb exploded in north Baghdad, killing six people and wounding 15.

The announcement about al-Zarqawi's death came six days after he issued an audiotape on the Internet, railing against Shiites in Iraq and saying militias were raping women and killing Sunnis and the community must fight back.

Al-Maliki said the air strike was the result of intelligence reports provided to Iraqi security forces by residents in the area, and U.S. forces acted on the information. Casey said the hunt for al-Zarqawi began two weeks ago, and his body was identified by fingerprints and facial recognition. The U.S. military also said a DNA analysis was also being performed, but emphasized there was no doubt that he was in the house that was hit.

CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reported that officials say the U.S. had been tracking a key aide to al-Zarqawi, his spiritual adviser Sheikh Abed al Rahmen, to the area of Baqouba, a town about 30 miles northeast of Baghdad.

Iraq's foreign minister said the videotaped message al-Zarqawi released last week was also key in allowing intelligence experts to at least zero in on his location, CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer reported.

A Jordanian official said Jordan also provided the U.S. military with information that helped in tracking al-Zarqawi down. Some of the information came from Jordan's sources inside Iraq and led the U.S. military to the area of Baqouba, the official said.

The U.S. got a specific tip yesterday, apparently from someone inside al-Zarqawi's own organization, Martin reported, and that tip said that al-Zarqawi would be meeting with his top aides in a specific house, on the outskirts of Baqouba. That's when the air strike was called in, Martin said.

The building was hit with two 500-pound laser guided bombs that were dropped by U.S. Air Force jets. Iraqi police were the first on the scene. They pulled al-Zarqawi's body from the wreckage, and then the process of identification began, Martin said.

Baqouba has in recent weeks seen a spike in sectarian violence, including the discovery of 17 severed heads in fruit boxes. It was also near the site of a sectarian atrocity last week.