BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, whose bloody campaign of
beheadings and suicide bombings made him the most-wanted terrorist in
Iraq, was killed when U.S. warplanes dropped 500-pound bombs on his
isolated safe house, officials said Thursday. His death was a
long-sought victory in the war in Iraq.
The targeted airstrike Wednesday evening was the culmination of a
two-week-long hunt for al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq. Tips
from senior militants led U.S. forces to follow al-Zarqawi's spiritual
adviser to the safe house, 30 miles outside Baghdad, for a meeting with
the terror leader. The adviser, Sheik Abdul Rahman, was among those killed.
Fingerprints, tattoos and scars helped U.S. troops identify al-Zarqawi's
body, White House spokesman Tony Snow said. The U.S. military released a
picture of al-Zarqawi's face after the airstrike, with his eyes closed
and spots of blood behind him, an image reminiscent of photos of Saddam
Hussein's slain sons from the early days of the war.
"Al-Zarqawi was eliminated," Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said.
President Bush, who learned of the deadly airstrike Wednesday afternoon,
hailed the killing as "a severe blow to al-Qaida and it is a significant
victory in the war on terror."
But he cautioned: "We have tough days ahead of us in Iraq that will
require the continuing patience of the American people."
"Those who disrupt the course of life, like al-Zarqawi, will have a
tragic end," the Iraqi prime minister said. He warned those who would
follow the militant's lead that "whenever there is a new al-Zarqawi, we
will kill him."
"This is a message for all those who embrace violence, killing and
destruction to stop and to (retreat) before it's too late," he said. "It
is an open battle with all those who incite sectarianism."
Al-Maliki said tips from area residents helped lead to the airstrike. A
Jordanian official said the kingdom also gave the U.S. military
information on tracking down al-Zarqawi, who claimed responsibility for
the triple suicide bombing of hotels in Jordan's capital, which killed
60 people - mostly Sunni Muslims. The attack drew condemnation from the
Arab world, including Islamic militants.
In London, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said al-Zarqawi's death
"was very good news, because a blow against al-Qaida in Iraq was a blow
against al-Qaida everywhere." Afghan President Hamid Karzai called the
killing "a significant step in ridding the world of the menace of
In Jordan, al-Zarqawi's older brother said the insurgent leader was a