Zarqawi Survived Air Strike, Died Shortly After
By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 9, 2006 Terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi initially survived the June 7 air strike but died from his wounds while laying on a stretcher shortly thereafter, a senior U.S. military officer in Baghdad said today.
Iraqi police were the first people on the scene following the air strike. After finding Zarqawi alive, the police placed him on a stretcher, Army Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell told Pentagon reporters via a satellite connection today.
U.S. forces arrived shortly after and began identification procedures by examining distinguishing marks on his body and by using visual facial-recognition techniques.
Zarqawi mumbled a few indistinguishable words before he expired, Caldwell added.
"According to the person on the ground, Zarqawi attempted to sort of turn away off the stretcher," Caldwell said. "They re-secured him back onto the stretcher, but he died almost immediately thereafter from the wounds he had received from the air strike."
Zarqawi, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, was one of six individuals confirmed dead from the bombing. Two other men, including Zarqawi's so-called spiritual guide, Sheik Abd-al-Rahman, and three women were also among the dead. Reports that a child was also killed have not been confirmed, Caldwell said.
It is not yet clear how Zarqawi might have survived F-16 fighter jets dropping two 500-pound bombs on his safe house.
Caldwell noted that Zarqawi's death "is not going to stop the violence here in Iraq."
"It is an important step forward," he said, "but we still have some tough times ahead of us."
The general confirmed that Zarqawi's face was cleaned up for the now widely distributed photos of his dead body.
"His face was very, very bloodied and we made a conscious decision that if we were going to take photographs of him and make them available publicly that we were going to clean him up," Caldwell said. "Despite the fact that this person actually had no regard for human life, we were not going to treat him in the same manner."
The final determination for where the body will be sent is still being deliberated, the general said.
Seventeen ground raids occurred in conjunction with the air strike that killed Zarqawi. During the raids a large weapons cache was discovered under the floorboards of a house, Caldwell said. The cache included small arms, ammunition, passports, license plates, night-vision goggles, Iraqi Army uniforms, bombs and a suicide belt. In addition, 25 terrorist suspects were detained during the raids, he said.
The general pointed out that the air strike was the result of a painstaking process that occurred over several weeks. The bombing was not a case where an individual came to coalition forces and gave up Zarqawi's exact whereabouts, he said.
"(The air strike) was a result of tremendous work by coalition forces, intelligence agencies, partners in our global war on terrorism, that all came together feeding different parts and pieces that allowed us to build that puzzle," Caldwell said.