Zarqawi is dead!
Zarqawi is dead. A major victory for the US effort in the war on terrorism and a major step forward in Iraq: Iraqi democracy is alive and Zarqawi is dead.
The official release from US Centcom runs:
Gen. George W. Casey Jr., Multi-National Force-Iraq Commanding General, announced the death of al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi in the following statement during a press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad June 8:
“Ladies and Gentlemen, Coalition Forces killed al-Qaida terrorist leader Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi and one of his key lieutenants, spiritual advisor Sheik Abd-Al-Rahman, yesterday, June 7, at 6:15 p.m. in an air strike against an identified, isolated safe house.
“Tips and intelligence from Iraqi senior leaders from his network led forces to al-Zarqawi and some of his associates who were conducting a meeting approximately eight kilometers north of Baqubah when the air strike was launched.
“Iraqi police were first on the scene after the air strike, and elements of Multi-National Division North, arrived shortly thereafter. Coalition Forces were able to identify al-Zarqawi by fingerprint verification, facial recognition and known scars.
Al-Zarqawi and al-Qaida in Iraq have conducted terrorist activities against the Iraqi people for years in attempts to undermine the Iraqi national government and Coalition efforts to rebuild and stabilize Iraq. He is known to be responsible for the deaths of thousands of Iraqis. Al-Zarqawi’s death is a significant blow to al-Qaida and another step toward defeating terrorism in Iraq.
“Although the designated leader of al-Qaida in Iraq is now dead, the terrorist organization still poses a threat as its members will continue to try to terrorize the Iraqi people and destabilize their government as it moves toward stability and prosperity. Iraqi forces, supported by the Coalition, will continue to hunt terrorists that threaten the Iraqi people until terrorism is eradicated in Iraq.”
Zarqawi was near the center of the Iraq/Al Qaeda connection that led to the American decision to liberate Iraq.
Since 2000, Saddam Hussein had been subsidizing Zarqawi's Al Qaeda group as part of his war against the Kurds. And in October of 2002, Zarqawi had extended his reach by assassinating US Ambassador to Jordan Lawrence Foley.
With the collapse of his patron Saddam Hussein in April of 2003, Zarqawi was central to the Al Qaeda effort to expel the Americans from Iraq.
In an intercepted letter dating from February of 2004, Zarqawi worried that Al Qaeda would fail if democracy were established in Iraq: "IF WE FIGHT THEM, THAT WILL BE DIFFICULT BECAUSE THERE WILL BE A SCHISM BETWEEN US AND THE PEOPLE OF THE REGION. HOW CAN WE KILL THEIR COUSINS AND SONS AND UNDER WHAT PRETEXT, AFTER THE AMERICANS START WITHDRAWING? THE AMERICANS WILL CONTINUE TO CONTROL FROM THEIR BASES, BUT THE SONS OF THIS LAND WILL BE THE AUTHORITY. THIS IS THE DEMOCRACY, WE WILL HAVE NO PRETEXT."
He was right: Three elections later, Iraqi democracy is alive and Zarqawi is dead.
Links: The coverage over at the Counterterrorism Blog is more in-depth than all the world's mainline sources put together: see in particular Bill Roggio on the work of Major Task Force 145. Walid Phares looks at Arab reaction. And Andrew Cochran has an excellent round-up.
The Washington Post reduces Al Qaeda to an "insurgent" group, and notes that Iraqi reporters applauded his death. The Post does not mention if American reporters joined in the applause.
ABC News reports on the death of the "insurgency" leader, adding the suggestive detail that: "Zarqawi did not die right away, ABC News has learned. He was badly injured when he was recovered by U.S. troops. He then died from his injuries and was handed over to Iraqi officials."
CBS News, clearly worried by yet another victory in the war on terror, writes: "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."
MSNBC carries the AP report of the demise of Iraq's "most wanted militant", conceding in the very first paragraph: "It was a major victory in the U.S.-led war in Iraq and the broader war on terror."
CNN has a solid report on the death of the terrorist. CNN readers show their seriousness in the war on terror, ranking the video clips of the death of Zarqawi as #3 behind the clips of Paul McCartney's wife (#1) and Hadith (#2) as the most watched on-line newsclips (as of 5.30am Eastern time).
Professional is Britain's The Guardian. And Britain's Daily Telegraph. The BBC with characteristic cowardice reports the demise of a "militant" but not a "terrorist". By contrast the Times of London hails the death of the "terror leader", and connects the story to national concerns, noting that he was believed to have personally beheaded Ken Bigley of Liverpool, UK.
In Germany, Der Spiegel goes where the BBC won't: "The most-wanted terrorist in Iraq is dead". Der Spiegel even goes on to note that Zarqawi's goal was to re-establish the Caliphate in Iraq. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in its coverage highlights Tony Blair's declaration that this is a defeat for Al Qaeda worldwide. Munich's Suddeutsche Zeitung minces no words in describing the demise of one of the world's "most-wanted terrorists", and his responsibility for some of the "bloodiest attacks" of the last few years.
Iraqi blogger Iraq the Model offers congratulations for a major victory against terrorism. Al Jazeera reports the death of Zarqawi, while refraining with American journalism from calling Zarqawi a terrorist.