Much of the available information about al-Zarqawi came from intelligence services in Jordan, where Zarqawi was born, and where he had been sentenced and jailed for a number of terrorist crimes.
Al-Zarqawi's jihadi group, known as Attawhid Wal Jihad (Unity and Jihad), or al Tawhid, was initially established to overthrow the Jordanian monarchy. In the 1990s, he spent several years in a Jordanian prison for plotting to replace the monarchy with an Islamic state.
Later, Jordanian courts convicted him in absentia for a millennium plot to kill tourists, and for the October 2002 assassination of U.S. diplomat Laurence Foley in the Jordanian capital, Amman.
The group claimed the August 2003 bombings of the U.N. Baghdad headquarters and a main Shi'ite shrine in Najaf, as well as a suicide car bomb that killed the head of Iraq's former Governing Council, Izzedin Salim. <[p>
Al-Zarqawi claimed responsibility for the Nov. 9, 2005, suicide bombings at hotels in Amman that killed 59 people, including guests at a Jordanian wedding at the Radisson SAS hotel.
Al-Zarqawi was born Oct. 30, 1966, to Palestinian parents in a refugee camp in Jordan. He takes his name from his hometown ? a dusty mining town 17 miles north of Amman called Zarqa.
Al-Zarqawi is a nom de guerre. His family name is al-Khalayeh, but given name is unclear; it has been cited as Ahmed or Fadel Nazzel. His parents are dead, and reporters have found few living relations.
Locals mainly remember him as a pious youth who dropped out of high school and eventually went to fight in the Afghan war against the Soviets in the 1980s. Upon his return to Jordan, he began associating with militant groups and was jailed for several years.
When he was released, he fled to Europe, eventually returning to Afghanistan and running terrorist camps there. He is said to have specialized in poisons and chemical attacks.
Intelligence sources say al-Zarqawi was fighting against U.S. forces in Afghanistan when they began their campaign shortly after Sept. 11, 2001, and was wounded. They believe he fled to northern Iraq, where he reportedly associated with a group of Kurdish Islamic fundamentalists called Ansar al Islam, which U.S. officials have linked to al Qaeda.
Bin Laden appointed al-Zarqawi as his deputy in Iraq after the Jordanian pledged allegiance to him in October 2004, according to intelligence reports. Al-Zarqawi changed his group's name from Tawhid wal Jihad to Al Qaeda Organisation for holy war in Iraq. The United States immediately ordered a freeze on his assets.
In January 2005, the governor of Baghdad, Ali al-Haidri, was assassinated and in April, interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi escaped an assassination attempt when a suicide bomber attacked his convoy near his home. Al-Zarqawi's group claimed responsibility for both attacks.
The attacks only escalated with the insurgency spearheading its efforts against the U.S. military but more specifically against Iraqi police forces. In February 2005, U.S. officials said they uncovered communications from bin Laden to al-Zarqawi.
In the communiqués, bin Laden "suggested" al-Zarqawi might be able to help al Qaeda by attacking inside the United States, a counterterrorism official said.