Iraqis Can Hasten Zarqawi's Death or Capture, Official Says
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 23, 2004 Ordinary Iraqis hold the key to how soon coalition or Iraqi forces will find fugitive terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a senior military official told reporters in Baghdad today.
The official, speaking on background, called Zarqawi and his network the greatest terrorist threat in Iraq. The coalition has offered $10 million for information leading to his death or capture.
"I suspect there isn't a person in this country who doesn't recognize the picture of Zarqawi," the official said. "If everybody in the country knows Zarqawi, knows what he looks like, we would appeal not just to the security forces to be the solution to this problem, but to every citizen in this country."
People are seeing him walking around, driving around or being driven around, the official said. "That intelligence, provided to the Iraqi security forces or the coalition forces, is what is going to bring him to his fate or his capture."
He compared the hunt for Zarqawi to the ultimately successful hunt for deposed dictator Saddam Hussein. "All of a sudden, one of these nights, you get this 'Aha!' (piece of intelligence), and things start falling together," he said.
Zarqawi is believed to be behind the recent beheadings of kidnapped foreigners and much of the anti-Iraqi and anti-coalition violence in the country since its liberation.
"If half of what is attributed to him is true," the official said, "he is probably the most significant terrorist in the most significant terrorist network inside of Iraq at this time. We suspect that far more than half of what is attributed to him is true."
In calling on ordinary Iraqis and members of the security forces to come forward with information on Zarqawi's whereabouts, the official said they must realize he has nothing to offer the Iraqi people.
"He hasn't built one school. He hasn't built one health clinic. He hasn't offered one constructive piece of advice politically, socially (or) economically," the official said. Zarqawi just seems very comfortable with killing, and spends a lot of his time and energy "killing aimlessly, with no end," he added.
Bombing raids June 19 and June 22 destroyed what the official said "overwhelming evidence" had shown to be safe houses used by Zarqawi's network. The raids, the official said, killed 42 terrorists.
In the same background briefing, the official said the slow progress in Fallujah has been progress nonetheless, and the coalition isn't ready to call the Fallujah Brigade initiative a failure. Though the violence has stopped, the conditions of the initiative still haven't been met, he said. Those conditions are:
- Departure of foreign fighters.
- Turn-in of heavy weapons.
- Acceptance of legitimate Iraqi control of the city.
- Turnover of those responsible for the Feb. 14 attack on Fallujah's police station and the March 31 killing and mutilation of four American contractors.
"We continue to press on the Fallujah Brigade to adhere to their responsibilities to make sure that just being quiet is not sufficient," the official said.