News >> Al Qaeda Leader in Iraq Killed

6/8/2006 Houston -- Abu Musab al-Zarqawi - the leader of the terrorist group Al Qaeda in Iraq who has led a bloody campaign of suicide bombings, kidnappings and hostage beheadings - has been killed in a U.S. air raid north of Baghdad, according to the U.S. and Iraq.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced al-Zarqawi's death Thursday morning in Baghdad, saying that the terror group leader was killed Wednesday evening along with seven aides. Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. general in Iraq, says al-Zarqawi's body was identified by both his face and his fingerprints. "Today, al-Zarqawi was eliminated," Prime Minister al-Maliki told reporters in Baghdad, drawing loud applause as he was flanked by U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and Casey.

Al-Maliki said the air strike in the volatile province of Diyala was the result of intelligence reports provided to Iraqi security forces by residents in the area, and U.S. forces acted on the information. Those who disrupt the course of life, like al-Zarqawi, will have a tragic end," he said.

Khalilzad added "the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is a huge success for Iraq and the international war on terror." CBS News correspondent Susan Roberts reports that while there is no question that Zarqawi's death is a major victory for U.S. and Iraqi forces, it may have little impact on the sectarian violence now plaguing the country.

The Jordanian-born militant, who is believed to have personally beheaded at least two American hostages, became Iraq's most wanted militant, as notorious as Osama bin Laden, to whom he swore allegiance in 2004. The United States put a $25 million bounty on al-Zarqawi, the same as bin Laden. A Jordanian official says Jordan helped pinpoint Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's location by analyzing the militant's last video.

Some of the information came from Jordan's sources inside Iraq and led the U.S. military to the area of Baqouba, the region northeast of Baghdad where Iraq's prime minister said al-Zarqawi was killed in an airstrike Wednesday night, said the official, who has knowledge of the operation. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was addressing intelligence issues, would not elaborate, but Jordan is known to have intelligence agents operating in Iraq to hunt down Islamic militants.

In Jordan, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's oldest brother said the family expected that he would be killed. "We anticipated that he would be killed for a very long time," said Sayel al-Khalayleh in a telephone interview from Zarqa, the poor industrial hometown of al-Zarqawi from which the Islamic militant derived his name. His real name is Ahmed Fadhil Nazzal al-Khalayleh.

"We expected that he would be martyred," al-Khalayleh said in a low voice, signaling his grief over the death of his brother. "We hope that he will join other martyrs in heaven," he added.

(Contributed by AP)