U.S. Air Raid Kills Terror Figure Zarqawi Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al-Qaida's leader in Iraq who led a bloody campaign of suicide bombings and kidnappings, has been killed in an air strike, U.S. and Iraqi officials said Thursday. The death is seen as a major victory in the U.S.-led war in Iraq and the broader war on terror.
NPR logo U.S. Air Raid Kills Terror Figure Zarqawi

U.S. Air Raid Kills Terror Figure Zarqawi

Iraqis listen to the joint press conference of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki (L) and Gen. George W. Casey Jr, chief of the Multi-National Force in Iraq. Ali Al-Saadi/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

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Ali Al-Saadi/AFP/Getty Images

Iraqis listen to the joint press conference of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki (L) and Gen. George W. Casey Jr, chief of the Multi-National Force in Iraq.

Ali Al-Saadi/AFP/Getty Images

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed along with five others Wednesday evening in a remote area 30 miles northeast of Baghdad, just east of the provincial capital of Baqouba. Melody Kokoszka, NPR hide caption

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Melody Kokoszka, NPR

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed along with five others Wednesday evening in a remote area 30 miles northeast of Baghdad, just east of the provincial capital of Baqouba.

Melody Kokoszka, NPR

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is dead. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced Zarqawi's killing today in Baghdad.

Zarqawi was the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq. He was responsible for numerous attacks, his signature being spectacular bombings of civilians.

That includes the destruction of a significant Shi'ite mosque in Samarra almost four months ago that set off a round of sectarian killings that is still raging. Zarqawi is also believed to have personally beheaded at least one American hostage.

U.S. forces had been following a man described as Zarqawi's spiritual adviser, whom they identified as Sheik Abdul Rahman, for weeks after being tipped off by someone within al-Qaida.

Last night in Iraq, Abdul Rahman was tracked to an isolated house a few miles outside the city of Baqouba, north of Baghdad.

A Predator drone loitered overhead, feeding live video of the house. Special Forces troops confirmed that Zarqawi was in the house and called in an air strike.

Two F-16s swooped in. The first dropped a 500-pound Joint Direct Attack Munition, a GPS-controlled bomb, on the house, followed quickly by the second F-16, which dropped another bomb.

Iraqi police were the first on the scene, followed quickly by a U.S. quick-reaction force from the 101st Airborne.

Six bodies were found, that of Zarqawi, Abdul Rahman and four others. Two of them were a woman and a child.

Zarqawi was quickly identified by his facial features, later confirmed by fingerprints. DNA analysis is underway. The U.S. military showed a picture of the slain Zarqawi today in Baghdad, with his eyes closed and spots of blood behind him.

President George W. Bush held a press conference in the Rose Garden this morning. He said Zarqawi's death is "a severe blow to al-Qaida, and it is a significant victory in the war on terror," though he did caution that there are still "tough days ahead" in Iraq.

Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki said, "Those who disrupt the course of life, like al-Zarqawi, will have a tragic end." He also warned the slain terrorist's followers that "whenever there is a new al-Zarqawi, we will kill him."

Zarqawi appeared on a video released recently, firing an automatic weapon into the air and then turning to the camera.

"I swear to God," he said, "America will be defeated in Iraq, God willing. And it will leave the land of the two rivers, defeated, humiliated, exhausted and disgraced."