ROME – Al-Qaida leaders sold out Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to the United States in exchange for a promise to let up in the search for Osama bin Laden, the slain militant’s wife claimed in an interview with an Italian newspaper.
The woman, identified by La Repubblica as al-Zarqawi’s first wife, said al-Qaida’s top leadership reached a deal with U.S. intelligence because al-Zarqawi had become too powerful. She claimed Sunni tribes and Jordanian secret services mediated the deal.
Al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, died June 7 in a U.S. airstrike outside Baqouba, northeast of Baghdad.
“My husband has been sold to the Americans,” the woman said in an interview published Sunday. “He had become too powerful, too troublesome.”
She was identified only as “Um Mohammed,” which means “mother of Mohammed” and would be a nickname, not her full name. The Rome-based newspaper said the interview was conducted in Geneva and described her as Jordanian and about 40 years old.
In Jordan, Al-Zarqawi’s eldest brother, Sayel, said the family had not been aware of the woman’s whereabouts for about two years.
“I think a secret pact was struck whose immediate goal was his death,” she told the newspaper. “In return, the American troops promised to ease, at least momentarily, their hunt for bin Laden.”
“Al-Qaida is currently especially worried with protecting its charismatic leader,” she added.
Iraq’s national security adviser Mouwafak al-Rubaie said Sunday that al-Zarqawi had been buried secretly in Baghdad despite his family’s demand that the body be returned to his native Jordan.
On Monday, an Iraqi legislator said authorities found telephone numbers of senior officials in al-Zarqawi’s cell phone after his death. Waiel Abdul-Latif, a member of former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi’s party, did not give names of the officials. But he said they included ministry employees and members of parliament.
He called for an investigation, saying Iraqis “cannot have one hand with the government and another with the terrorists.”