A mortally wounded Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was still alive and mumbling on a gurney when Iraqi police arrived at the site bombed by U.S. forces there, a top American military spokesman said Friday.
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.
Iraqi and U.S. leaders have cautioned the death of the al Qaeda in Iraq leader was not likely to end the bloodshed in Iraq, and an American general said an Egyptian-born roadside bomb expert is already poised to take over the terror network's operations.
In a video aired on Al-Jazeera Friday, Ayman al-Zawahri, deputy al Qaeda leader, sent greetings to the Shura Council of Mujahedeen in Iraq and insurgents, "who are confronting crusaders and their apostate aids and the merchants of religion." He also praised al-Zarqawi, but the tape does not mention his death, suggesting it was made earlier. "God bless the prophet of Islam in Iraq, the persistent hero of Islam, the Holy Warriors Abu Musab al-Zarqawi," al-Zawahri said.
The vehicle ban will be in effect from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday in Baghdad and from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. for three days starting Friday in Diyala, Interior Ministry spokesman Brig. Adnan Abdul Rahman said.
The ban also falls during the times that most Iraqis go to mosques for Friday prayers. Bombers have been known to target Shiite mosques during the weekly religious services with suicide attackers and mortars hidden in vehicles.
Iraqi authorities imposed the vehicle ban as a security measure "to protect mosques and prayers from any possible terrorist attacks, especially car bombs, in the wake off yesterday's event," a government official said, referring to al-Zarqawi's death.
"It wouldn't astonish me if in the next few days or weeks we see some increase in attacks as al Qaeda tries to prove that they have not been in any way impaired by his death," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told CBS News' The Early Show. "But this is a significant victory."
"Just the fact that he's gone to his reward, which is some special place in hell, is good news. But, we still have militia, sectarian violence, we still have militias, we still have other problems," McCain added.
"I think it has done significant damage to al Qaeda in Iraq in particular because this man was the architect, the mastermind of the movement here, but still the organization is able to do harm and I anticipate that they will demonstrate that they are still able to do damage and expect them to express themselves in the coming hours and days," U.S. ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad told CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer of al-Zarqawi's death.
A rash of bombings that killed nearly 40 people in Baghdad on Thursday confirmed that assessment.
CBS News terrorism analyst Michael Scheuer, a former CIA officer, cautioned that al-Zarqawi's death may not stem violence in Iraq.
"In the long run, I think it's a great tactical victory; strategically it's not very important," Scheuer told Schieffer.
Al Qaeda confirmed al-Zarqawi's death in a statement and vowed to continue its "holy war." Curiously, the announcement was signed by al-Iraqi, who was identified as deputy "emir" of the group, perhaps in an attempt to spread confusion.
Caldwell said Egyptian-born Abu al-Masri would likely take the reins of al Qaeda in Iraq. He said al-Masri trained in Afghanistan and arrived in Iraq in 2002 to establish an al Qaeda cell.
Al-Masri, whose name is an obvious alias, meaning "father of the Egyptian," is believed to be an expert at constructing roadside bombs, the leading cause of U.S. military casualties in Iraq.