John B. Dwyer 6 9 06
BAGHDAD (June 9, 2006) — Gen. George W. Casey Jr., Multi—National Force—Iraq Commanding General, announced the death of al—Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab Al—Zarqawi during a press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al—Maliki and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad June 8.
'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,' said Gen. Casey.
The general said that 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.
According to U.S. Air Force officials, two F—16Cs dropped two precision—guided 500—pound bombs —— a GBU—12 laser—guided bomb and a GBU—38 Joint Direct Attack Munition —— destroying the terrorist safe house where Al Zarqawi and other terrorists were meeting.
General Casey said following the strike, Iraqi police were first on the scene, and elements of Multi—National Division—North arrived shortly thereafter. He said 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,' added Gen. Casey. '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.'
The general said 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.
However, he added, 'Iraqi forces, supported by the Coalition, will continue to hunt terrorists that threaten the Iraqi people until terrorism is eradicated in Iraq.'
Following General Casey's announcement, Maj. Gen. Bill Caldwell, MNF—I spokesman, described the events that led to the death of al—Qaida's leader in Iraq.
'Today is a great day in Iraq,' said Maj. Gen. Caldwell. 'Congratulations go out to everyone ... the efforts of both the Iraqi security forces and the Coalition forces have resulted in the elimination of a major threat to the stability, the security and the prosperity of the Iraqi people now and in the future. Abu Musaab al—Zarqawi is dead, no longer able to terrorize innocent Iraqi civilians.'
The general said the success of the operation was the product of 'painstaking intelligence—gathering' —— from local sources and from within Zarqawi's network; intelligence, he said, 'that was made possible both by the Iraqis who have made the determination to uphold the legitimate authority of their own nation and the slow, deliberate exploitation of leads and opportunities, person—to—person, through evidence since December of 2003. The elimination of Zarqawi has dealt a serious blow to al—Qaida in Iraq.'
Maj. Gen. Caldwell added that although Zarqawi's capture is reason to rejoice, the Coalition is cautious not to be overly optimistic. Because, as the general said, 'one man's life does not signify an end to an insurgency.'
Iraqi Prime Minitser Nouri Al—Maliki also spoke of Zarqawi's death.
"Today Zarqawi has been killed,' Prime Minister Al—Maliki said. 'What happened today is the outcome of the fruitful cooperation of Iraqi people to provide information and facilitate the operation to the [Iraqi police] and the [multi—national force]. This is a letter to all those who take killing and destruction as their work, to stop and look at themselves, and come back to their senses before it is too late. We have decided and we will go on, God willing, to face killers and terrorists."
As Coalition and Iraqi leaders announced Zarqawi's death, the Iraq government also took a giant step forward.
In a statement June 8, Prime Minister Al—Maliki, submitted, and the Council of Representatives confirmed, the ministries for Defense, Interior and National Security.
'Today, Iraq takes a giant step forward —— closer to peace within, closer to unity throughout, and closer to a world without terror,' Prime Minister Al—Maliki said.
Abdul Qadir Muhammed Jasim, a Sunni Arab, was confirmed as the new Minister of Defense, while Jawad al—Bolani, a Shiite, was confirmed for the Minister of Interior, and the position of state minister of national security was put in the hands of Sherwan al—Waily, also a Shiite.