BAGHDAD, Iraq – Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al-Qaida leader in
Iraq who waged a bloody campaign of suicide bombings and beheadings of hostages, has been killed in a precision airstrike, U.S. and Iraqi officials said Thursday. It was a long-sought victory in the war in Iraq.
Al-Zarqawi and seven aides were killed Wednesday evening in a remote area 30 miles northeast of Baghdad in the volatile province of Diyala, just east of the provincial capital of Baqouba, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said.
“Al-Zarqawi was eliminated,” al-Maliki said.
At the White House, President Bush hailed the killing, saying it is “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.”
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,” said the statement, signed by “Abu Abdel-Rahman al-Iraqi,” identified as the deputy “emir” or leader of al-Qaida in Iraq.
“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.”
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 showed the camera a child’s sandal, a backpack with a teddy bear on it and a stuffed animal. The site sat across a dirt road from a grove of palm trees.