ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.
MICHELE NORRIS, host:
And I'm Michele Norris.
All day long the messages out of Washington and Baghdad have been measured and carefully mixed. On the one hand, the airstrike that killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi struck a blow against the Jihadist insurgency in Iraq. On the other, don't expect sectarian violence to end anytime soon. Here's some of what President Bush had to say at the White House this morning.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: 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.
SIEGEL: Zarqawi was a ruthless hoodlum. A high school dropout from Jordan, he found religion while fighting in Afghanistan. After a prison sentence in Jordan, he carried the banner of radical Islam to a remote corner of Iraq and after the fall of Saddam Hussein, he swore allegiance to Osama bin Laden and his organization took the name al-Qaida in Iraq.
NORRIS: There are questions no one can answer yet. How much will Zarqawi's death damage al-Qaida in Iraq? Who, if anyone, will take over from him? And there are questions that are more easily answered, how was he killed and how was he found?
SIEGEL: NPR's Tom Bowman is at the Pentagon, where he's been following events today with those questions in mind. Tom, how did the U.S. carry out this operation?
TOM BOWMAN reporting:
Robert, there were two Air Force jets involved, two F-16s, and just one of those jets, we're told, dropped both 500-pound bombs. Now one of the bombs was sent to the target by a laser guidance system. The other used a GPS system. Basically, you punch in the coordinates and the bomb is sent to the target. Now, both bombs are highly accurate and the pictures we've seen show the house was completely flattened.
SIEGEL: The bomb are accurate, by obviously what they needed were the exact coordinates of this place where Zarqawi was.
BOWMAN: That's exactly right and the intelligence was a patchwork here. And we're told that it took many, many weeks to pull it all together. Now, they had human sources from Zarqawi's network and we don't know if they were turncoats in his organization or if perhaps some of the dozens of Zarqawi operatives who had been arrested over the past months cooperated with investigators or were interrogated and supplied key information.
Now, they also intercepted phone calls and radio transmissions. In military parlance, it's called signals intelligence. You know, that could have likely been from inside the safe house or from others who knew of Zarqawi's whereabouts. We don't know that at this point.
And it's likely to develop the target they would have used something called a predator drone. Now that's an unmanned aircraft that has a TV camera on its nose and can send back live pictures. But we are told a predator was not used in the attack itself - just the two F-16s.
SIEGEL: Now, we've heard from Pentagon officials that the U.S. found a lot of material at this safe house that they say could help in future operations. What more, if anything, do you know about what they found?
BOWMAN: Well, they did tell us that after the raid on the safe house they conducted 17 other raids in and around Baghdad. And we're also told that they found, right, a treasure trove of information. They didn't give any details on that obviously, saying it would be used in future operations.
But this is common in any type of attack or raid. You'd go into a house. They have what's called human intelligence exploitation teams that would go in and pick up, let's say documents, photographs, it could be cell phones, laptop computers, anything that looks like it would be of interest. They even pick up what's known as pocket litter. It could be scraps of paper on the bodies that might have phone numbers, addresses and so forth that would be helpful.
SIEGEL: Tom, I don't know if you have an answer to this but do you get the impression from people at the Pentagon that they believe that wherever Zarqawi was, that was the headquarters of his organization at that time? Or is there some other place that is the base from which he would operate, other than this safe house?
Mr. BOWMAN: What we've heard over the past months is that he's always on the run, much like bin Laden is. That he doesn't have, clearly, a headquarters -he's always on the move. And he has to be because, again, if you're using cell phones, radios, someone always knows where he is. So they have to move pretty quickly or they'll be detected.
SIEGEL: And what did you hear, very briefly, about what the military thinks this might do to the insurgency?
Mr. BOWMAN: Well, Secretary Rumsfeld said today that it clearly would slow them down, meaning Zarqawi's network. And he also said that someone else would always pop up and take over. But of course there are two insurgencies in Iraq. There's the foreign-born one that was led by Zarqawi and there's the other homegrown one, based largely in Anbar Province. And that will continue, of course.
SIEGEL: Thank you, Tom.
Mr. BOWMAN: Thank you.
SIEGEL: That's NPR's Tom Bowman, talking to us from the Pentagon.
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