Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al-Qaeda's leader in Iraq who led a bloody campaign of suicide bombings and kidnappings, has been killed in an air strike, US and Iraqi officials said yesterday, adding his identity was confirmed by fingerprints and a first-hand look at his face. It was a major victory in the US-led war in Iraq and the broader war on terror.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said al-Zarqawi was killed along with seven aides on Wednesday evening in a remote area 50km northeast of Baghdad, in the volatile province of Diyala, just east of the provincial capital of Baqubah.
Loud applause broke out as al-Maliki, flanked by US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and US General George Casey, the top US commander in Iraq, told reporters at a news conference that "al-Zarqawi was eliminated."
The announcement came six days after the Jordanian-born terror leader issued an audiotape on the Internet, railing against Shiites in Iraq and saying militias are raping women and killing Sunnis, and the community must fight back.
Al-Maliki said the air strike was the result of intelligence reports provided to Iraqi security forces by residents in the area, and US forces acted on the information.