At the White House, President Bush hailed the killing as “a severe blow to al-Qaida and it is a significant victory in the war on terror.”
But he cautioned: “We have tough days ahead of us in Iraq that will require the continuing patience of the American people.”
ID via fingerprints
Al-Qaida in Iraq confirmed al-Zarqawi’s death and vowed to continue its “holy war,” according to a statement posted on a Web site.
“We want to give you the joyous news of the martyrdom of the mujahed sheik Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
“The death of our leaders is life for us. It will only increase our persistence in continuing holy war so that the word of God will be supreme.”
Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said the hunt for al-Zarqawi began two weeks ago, and his body was identified by fingerprints and facial recognition.
Casey said an American airstrike targeted “an identified, isolated safe house.”
He said tips and intelligence from senior leaders of al-Zarqawi’s network led U.S. forces to al-Zarqawi as he was meeting with some of his associates. Casey also said Iraqi police were first on the scene after the airstrike.
Video from the scene of the attack showed children scrambling over a flattened jumble of cinderblocks, concrete reinforcing bars, blankets, blue plastic bowls and other debris. A pickup truck was scorched and crushed.
Two young members of the crowd held up a child’s sandal, a backpack with a teddy bear on it and a stuffed animal. The rubble was across a dirt road from a grove of palm trees.
The news came amid more reports of violence in Iraq, with two bombs striking a market and a police patrol in Baghdad, killing at least 19 people and wounding more than 40.
The announcement about al-Zarqawi’s death came six days after he issued an audiotape on the Internet, railing against Shiites in Iraq and saying militias were raping women and killing Sunnis. He urged the community to fight back.
The Jordanian-born terrorist was 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 his head, the same as bin Laden. Al-Maliki told al-Arabiya television the bounty would be honored, saying “we will meet our promise,” without elaborating.