Iraq's Al Qaeda Leader Killed in Air Raid

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al Qaeda's leader in Iraq who led a bloody insurgency of suicide bombings and kidnappings, was killed in an airstrike Wednesday, north of Baghdad.

U.S. Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, confirmed that the operation which ended in al-Zarqawi's death was the result of "tips and intelligence from Iraqi senior leaders from his network."

A senior U.S. military official said on Wednesday afternoon U.S. forces tracked al-Zarqawi's spiritual adviser for two hours as he headed to a meeting with al-Zarqawi.

Air Force Lt. Gen. Gary North says the intelligence report was forwarded on to two F-16C pilots who were told to strike a building in which there was "a high target of interest."

At 6:15 p.m. Iraq time, one of the jets dropped two 500-pound bombs -- one laser-guided, the other GPS-guided -- on al-Zarqawi's safe house. The bombing came at the conclusion of a three-day operation.

FBI Assistant Director John Miller says the FBI played an important role in the operation that led to al-Zarqawi's death.

"FBI personnel were on the ground when this assault was going on. Zarqawi's body was removed from the scene to a secure location," he said.

Miller says al-Zarqawi's fingerprints were confirmed through electronic databases, but there was never any doubt as to the terrorist leader's identity.

"It was very clear, very quickly through those efforts that we had the individual we were looking for and that the military had succeeded in this operation," Miller added.

'Eliminated'

Earlier today, Iraq's prime minister in Baghdad confirmed al-Zarqawi's death.

"Today, al-Zarqawi has been eliminated," Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Kamel al-Maliki said in Arabic amid cheers at a news conference this morning, with U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and U.S. Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, at his side.

Al Qaeda in Iraq confirmed the death of the group's leader, according to an Islamist Web site posting.

Al-Zarqawi, the prime minister said, was killed along with seven others, including his spiritual adviser Sheik Al Rahman, Wednesday night, while meeting at an isolated house in the volatile province of Diyala, just east of the provincial capital of Baqouba. Diyala is 30 miles northeast of Baghdad.

Two women were said to be involved in the attack.

After the bombing, troops from the 101st airborne and Iraqi police moved to the house and discovered al-Zarqawi, who was alive but died soon after the air strike. Al-Zarqawi was identified by fingerprints, facial features, and known scars on his body.

President Bush welcomed the news of the killing of al-Zarqawi by military forces in Iraq.

Al-Zarqawi's death "is a severe blow to al Qaeda, and it is a significant victory in the war on terror," Bush said in a news conference at the White House.

"We have tough days ahead of us in Iraq that will require the continuing patience of the American people," he said.

U.S. Forces Acted on Tip

Al-Maliki said the airstrike was the result of intelligence reports provided to Iraqi security forces by residents in the area, and U.S. forces acted on the information. Jordanian officials also provided information leading to the airstrike.

"Those who disrupt the course of life, like Zarqawi, will have a tragic end," al-Maliki said.

Al-Maliki also warned those who follow the militant's lead that "whenever there is a new Zarqawi, we will kill him."

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