GOT HIM TOO
ABU MUSAB al-Zarqawi, leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq and Osama bin Laden's lieutenant, who carried out some of the bloodiest suicide attacks in the country and led a campaign of kidnappings and beheadings of hostages, has been killed in an air raid north of Baghdad.Updated: Jun 09, 2006 15:08 IST
Prince of Al Qaeda killed
ABU MUSAB al-Zarqawi, leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq and Osama bin Laden's lieutenant, who carried out some of the bloodiest suicide attacks in the country and led a campaign of kidnappings and beheadings of hostages, has been killed in an air raid north of Baghdad.
While this is a rare moment of triumph for the US - since the capture of Saddam Hussein - in the violence-torn Iraq, even US President George W. Bush is convinced that "we have tough days ahead".
In a news conference on Thursday, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki said Zarqawi -- whom Bin Laden called "the prince" of Al Qaeda in Iraq -- was "eliminated" in Diyala, 50 km northeast of Baghdad.
The US forces, which had been trailing Zarqawi's spiritual adviser Sheikh Abdul-Rahman, zeroed in on the former's hideout: an isolated safe house amid a palm grove near Baquba. On Wednesday night, while Zarqawi was holding a meeting, two F-16 fighter jets dropped two 500-pound bombs on the area, killing him, Abdul-Rahman and four others. Zarqawi was identified by his fingerprints, tattoos and scars.
Tip-offs came from the Jordanian intelligence, Iraqis and "someone" from the inner circle. Also helping the US-Iraqi forces was a video that Zarqawi put on the Net in April - his last one showing him as a bearded, beefy man fumbling with an automatic rifle.
Bush said the death of Zarqawi "is a severe blow to Al Qaeda" and an "opportunity for Iraq's new government to turn the tide in this struggle". Jordanian-born Zarqawi was the most prominent insurgency leader undermining the US's efforts in Baghdad by inciting Sunnis to battle with Shias and turning the country into a cauldron of sectarian violence.
Zarqawi was believed to have personally beheaded at least two American hostages -- Nicholas Berg and Eugene Armstrong in 2004 -- and became Iraq's most wanted militant, as notorious as Bin Laden, to whom he swore allegiance in that year. The US put a $25 million bounty on Zarqawi. Last year, he moved his campaign beyond Iraq, claiming to have carried out a triple suicide bombing in Amman.
But the blood trail may not end with Zarqawi. Al Qaeda in Iraq, which confirmed the death of its leader, said the "holy war" would go on.
First Published: Jun 09, 2006 15:08 IST