Rumsfeld Tells NATO Ministers of Zarqawi's Demise
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 8, 2006 Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld this morning informed NATO defense ministers meeting here of the demise of Jordanian terrorist leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi.
Rumsfeld noted that Zarqawi was one of the three senior al Qaeda leaders worldwide and said the ministers responded to the news "positively."
"I think arguably over the last several years, no single person on this planet has had the blood of more innocent men, women and children on his hands than Zarqawi," Rumsfeld said. "He personified the dark, sadistic and medieval vision of the future of beheadings, suicide bombings and indiscriminant killings."
Rumsfeld also congratulated the Iraqi government on naming ministers of defense and interior and called the appointments a "momentous step." The new Iraqi government had come under criticism for leaving these two important posts vacant since the Dec. 15 elections. These posts are particularly crucial because the minister of defense is responsible for military forces, and police forces come under the minister of interior.
Rumsfeld lauded Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for the choices he made in filling these posts: Jawad al-Bolani as interior minister and Gen. Abdel Qader Jassim as defense minister. In addition, he filled a remaining vacancy, naming Sherwan al-Waili as head of national security. Bolani and Waili are Shiites, while Jassim is a Sunni Arab.
"He made a decision that those posts would not be part of the 'spoils' system of the electoral process," Rumsfeld said, "but instead that they would be individuals who are highly competent, who would govern from the center, who would manage those critically important departments in a way that left no doubt in the minds of the Iraqi people that they were being run in a fair and nonsectarian manner."
Noting that Zarqawi and his terrorist group had worked so hard to disrupt the democratic process by ramping up violent attacks before key elections, Rumsfeld said he feels it's appropriate that Zarqawi should be killed at such an important juncture for the Iraqi government.
Speaking to reporters briefly at NATO headquarters here, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer called Zarqawi "a man with a lot of blood on his hands."
"I think I am not exaggerating when I say he will not be missed," Scheffer said.
Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., Multinational Force Iraq commander, first announced Zarqawi's death during a news conference in Baghdad with Maliki and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad today.
The air strike, against an "identified, isolated safe house," also killed one of Zarqawi's "key lieutenants," spiritual adviser Sheik Abd-Al-Rahman, Casey said. U.S. officials in Iraq said F-16 fighter jets dropped two 500-pound bombs on the safe house.
Officials identified Zarqawi's body by fingerprints, facial recognition and known scars, Casey said.
The general said "tips and intelligence" led forces to the location, about eight kilometers north of Baqubah, where Zarqawi and some associates were conducting a meeting. Iraqi police were first on the scene after the air strike, and coalition forces from elements of Multinational Division North arrived soon after.
Zarqawi had sworn fealty to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. U.S. officials said Zarqawi was responsible for the deaths of thousands of Iraqis.
Rumsfeld reported today that Casey informed him the previous evening of the attack.
Rumsfeld cautioned that Zarqawi's death will not mean the end of terrorism in Iraq. "But let there be no doubt," he added, "the fact that he is dead is a significant victory against terrorism in that country and, I would say, worldwide."