Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al-Qaeda leader in Iraq who waged a terror campaign of suicide bombings and beheadings of hostages, has been killed in a U.S. airstrike.
Statement by General George W. Casey Jr. announcing the death of al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi:
Ladies and Gentlemen, Coalition Forces killed al-Qaida terrorist leader Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi and one of his key lieutenants, spiritual advisor Sheik Abd-Al-Rahman, yesterday, June 7, at 6:15 p.m. in an air strike against an identified, isolated safe house.
Tips and intelligence from Iraqi senior leaders from his network led forces to al-Zarqawi and some of his associates who were conducting a meeting approximately eight kilometers north of Baqubah when the air strike was launched.
Iraqi police were first on the scene after the air strike, and elements of Multi-National Division North, arrived shortly thereafter. Coalition Forces were able to identify al-Zarqawi by fingerprint verification, facial recognition and known scars.
Al-Zarqawi and al-Qaida in Iraq have conducted terrorist activities against the Iraqi people for years in attempts to undermine the Iraqi national government and Coalition efforts to rebuild and stabilize Iraq. He is known to be responsible for the deaths of thousands of Iraqis.
Al-Zarqawi’s death is a significant blow to al-Qaida and another step toward defeating terrorism in Iraq.
Although the designated leader of al-Qaida in Iraq is now dead, the terrorist organization still poses a threat as its members will continue to try to terrorize the Iraqi people and destabilize their government as it moves toward stability and prosperity. Iraqi forces, supported by the Coalition, will continue to hunt terrorists that threaten the Iraqi people until terrorism is eradicated in Iraq.
Al-Zarqawi and seven aides were killed Wednesday evening in a remote area 30 miles northeast of Baghdad in the volatile province of Diyala, just east of the provincial capital of Baqouba, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said.
Al-Qaida in Iraq confirmed al-Zarqawi's death and vowed to continue its "holy war," according to a statement posted on a Web site.
In another report the Associated Press offered these details:
Officials said the terror leader's identity was confirmed by fingerprints, facial recognition, and known scars.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki said Al-Zarqawi was killed along with seven aides Wednesday evening at around 6:15 p.m. local time in a bombing raid on a building in a remote area 30 miles northeast of Baghdad in Diyala province.
Loud applause broke out as Al-Maliki, flanked by U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and U.S. Gen. George Casey, the top commander in Iraq, made the announcement at a news conference in Baghdad Thursday that al-Zarqawi was "terminated."
A senior U.S. military official said that on Wednesday afternoon, U.S. forces tracked Zarqawi's spiritual adviser for two hours as he headed to a meeting with Zarqawi.
At 6:15 p.m. Iraqi time, the U.S. military dropped two 500-pound bombs on Zarqawi's safehouse. The bombing came at the conclusion of a three-day operation.
After the bombing, troops from 101st airborne and Iraqi police moved to the house and discovered Zarqawi. He was not killed in the initial attack, ABC News has learned, but was badly injured when he was recovered by U.S. troops. He then died from his injuries and was handed over to Iraqi officials. Zarqawi was identified by fingerprints, facial features and known scars on his body.
Good morning. Last night in Iraq, United States military forces killed the terrorist al Zarqawi. At 6:15 p.m. Baghdad time, special operation forces, acting on tips and intelligence from Iraqis, confirmed Zarqawi's location, and delivered justice to the most wanted terrorist in Iraq.
Zarqawi was the operational commander of the terrorist movement in Iraq. He led a campaign of car bombings, assassinations and suicide attacks that has taken the lives of many American forces and thousands of innocent Iraqis. Osama bin Laden called this Jordanian terrorist "the prince of al Qaeda in Iraq." He called on the terrorists around the world to listen to him and obey him. Zarqawi personally beheaded American hostages and other civilians in Iraq. He masterminded the destruction of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad. He was responsible for the assassination of an American diplomat in Jordan, and the bombing of a hotel in Amman.
Through his every action, he sought to defeat America and our coalition partners, and turn Iraq into a safe haven from which al Qaeda could wage its war on free nations. To achieve these ends, he worked to divide Iraqis and incite civil war. And only last week he released an audio tape attacking Iraq's elected leaders, and denouncing those advocating the end of sectarianism.
Now Zarqawi has met his end, and this violent man will never murder again. Iraqis can be justly proud of their new government and its early steps to improve their security. And Americans can be enormously proud of the men and women of our armed forces, who worked tirelessly with their Iraqi counterparts to track down this brutal terrorist and put him out of business.
The operation against Zarqawi was conducted with courage and professionalism by the finest military in the world. Coalition and Iraqi forces persevered through years of near misses and false leads, and they never gave up. Last night their persistence and determination were rewarded. On behalf of all Americans, I congratulate our troops on this remarkable achievement.
Zarqawi is dead, but the difficult and necessary mission in Iraq continues. We can expect the terrorists and insurgents to carry on without him. We can expect the sectarian violence to continue. Yet the ideology of terror has lost one of its most visible and aggressive leaders.
Zarqawi's death is a severe blow to al Qaeda. It's a victory in the global war on terror, and it is an opportunity for Iraq's new government to turn the tide of this struggle. A few minutes ago I spoke to Prime Minister Maliki. I congratulated him on close collaboration between coalition and Iraqi forces that helped make this day possible. Iraq's freely elected Prime Minister is determined to defeat our common enemies and bring security and the rule of law to all its people.
Earlier this morning he announced the completion of his cabinet appointments, with the naming of a new Minister of Defense, a new Minister of the Interior, and a new Minister of State for National Security. These new ministers are part of a democratic government that represents all Iraqis. They will play a vital role as the Iraqi government addresses its top priorities -- reconciliation and reconstruction and putting an end to the kidnappings and beheadings and suicide bombings that plague the Iraqi people. I assured Prime Minister Maliki that he will have the full support of the United States of America.
On Monday I will meet with my national security team and other key members of my Cabinet at Camp David to discuss the way forward in Iraq. Our top diplomats and military commanders in Iraq will give me an assessment of recent changes in the political and economic and security situation on the ground. On Tuesday, Iraq's new Ambassador to the United States will join us, and we will have a teleconference discussion with the Prime Minister and members of his cabinet. Together we will discuss how to best deploy America's resources in Iraq and achieve our shared goal of an Iraq that can govern itself, defend itself and sustain itself.
We have tough days ahead of us in Iraq that will require the continued patience of the American people. Yet the developments of the last 24 hours give us renewed confidence in the final outcome of this struggle: the defeat of terrorism threats, and a more peaceful world for our children and grandchildren.
May God bless the Iraqi people and may God continue to bless America.
Today's announcement was very good news because a blow against al-Qaida in Iraq was a blow against al-Qaida everywhere.
Omar at IRAQ THE MODEL:
CONGRATULATIONS TO IRAQ, CONGRATULATIONS TO THE WHOLE WORLD ON THIS VICTORY.
At Outside The Beltway, James Joyner warns, "killing the charismatic head of an organization tends to be quite disruptive. In the short term, though, I suspect we’ll see an increase in violence, as al Qaeda tries to demonstrate that it’s unbowed."
Cori Dauber at Rantingprofs:
This is excellent news, indeed. Surely it's no silver bullet. The jihadists will continue (and the jihadists, of course, are not the only source of viiolence) and tragically this comes after the jihadists have had too much success in their strategy of sparking sectarian violence.
But it's not to be downplayed, either. In a war of images and propaganda, you can't say enough for striking a blow against someone who had made himself so prominent, a veritable poster-boy for the jihadist cause. This is the kind of thing that can sharply shift momentum over to the good guys for a good long while -- it's something to build on, to be sure.
And, while there's no doubt that someone will step forward to take Zarqawi's place, it's likely that, as has been the case with al Queda, the people who step up are often from the B Team.
Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters:
The elimination of Zarqawi and his henchmen will kneecap the foreign insurgency. Although the network will still exist, the loss of leadership and political connections will guarantee its rapid decline. What little command and control existed will disappear, and the funding channels that Zarqawi controlled with go with them. Cells will operate without any coordination at all, a problem already with the successes the Coalition and Iraq have achieved against the network. They will act all at once in response to this attack, but then should run out of gas quickly.
Lori Byrd at Wizbang:
When I first heard the news early this morning, one of my first thoughts was to wonder how long it would take for those on the left and in the media to point out that Zarqawi was not responsible for 9/11 and that Osama has not yet been killed or captured. It didn't take long. An anchor on CNN started asking about Osama before I even had my kids ready for school. I expect that will be a fairly common theme on the liberal blogs. I wonder if those actually depressed by the news of Zarqawi's death, for fear that it will result in the President's poll numbers ticking up a notch, realize how incredibly dispicable that attitude is to the general public. It reminds me of when Saddam was captured. There were some on the liberal message boards that could only be described as despondent. I am so glad that I can fully enjoy this truly wonderful news both for our troops in Iraq and for the Iraqi people.