Scroll for updates, quotes from Bush announcement, Nick Berg's father is saddened by the death, Kos Kids question the timing, "treasure trove" of terror intelligence found in 17 raids post-strike, Iraqis question the timing, video of the attack, Snow press conference, ...
BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al-Qaida's leader in Iraq who led a bloody campaign of suicide bombings and kidnappings, has been killed in an air strike, U.S. and Iraqi officials said Thursday, adding that his identity was confirmed by fingerprints and a look at his face. It was a major victory in the U.S.-led war in Iraq and the broader war on terror.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said al-Zarqawi was killed along with seven aides Wednesday evening in a remote area 30 miles northeast of Baghdad in the volatile province of Diyala, just east of the provincial capital of Baqouba, al-Maliki said.
Loud applause broke out among the reporters and soldiers as al-Maliki, flanked by U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and U.S. Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, told a news conference that "al-Zarqawi was eliminated."
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki said Al-Zarqawi was killed along with seven aides Wednesday evening at around 6:15 p.m. local time in a bombing raid on a building in a remote area 30 miles northeast of Baghdad in Diyala province.
CNN is reporting he was killed by a pair of 500-lb. bombs. Pictures of the safehouse where he was staying show it reduced to rubble. The U.S. military had been closing in on him for about 10 days, and tried in another air strike to hit him last week.
I wonder who will be the first the "question the timing."
Michelle has video of the announcement made this morning.
From the Daily Kos response:
Some guy on ABC is saying this is a "nail in the coffin of Al Queda." Bull [expletive]. This guy was a face, a name, a few menacing lines about impending doom to us. The victory doesn't lie in removing this man, nor any other true terrorists in Iraq. Instead victory is in making a peaceful nation in a land fractured by ethnicity and then war.
Where is Osama?
Um, so victory in Iraq doesn't lie in killing one figurehead leading the al-Qaeda operation in Iraq. Instead, it lies in killing another figurehead sorta-kinda-maybe-maybe-not leading the al-Qaeda operation from a cave in Afghanistan. Sure, guys.
Killing neither of these guys will ensure victory, but you can't argue that taking care of Zarqawi isn't a boon to the mission in Iraq, much more than would be the capture of the ineffectual Osama, which the Left has been calling the key to all for the last three years.
Omar in Iraq knows this is a big deal:
CONGRATULATIONS TO IRAQ, CONGRATULATIONS TO THE WHOLE WORLD ON THIS VICTORY...
In the first official confirmation, PM al-Maliki said that Jordan has provided intelligence that was used in the raid on Zaraqwi's hiding place but he also stressed that tips from locals were the primary lead to Zarqawi's exact location and these were the information according to which the missiles were guided.
Al-Maliki said that among the 7 killed with Zarqawi were two women who were responsible for collecting intelligence for the al-Qaeda HQ cell.
He also has some information on the town of Hibhib, where Zarqawi met his end.
Bush speaks: (transcript, here)
"Delivered justice to the most wanted terrorist in Iraq."
"He led a campaign of carbombings, assasinations, and suicide attacks that has taken the lives of many American forces and thousands of innocent Iraqis.
"The prince of al-qaeda in Iraq."
"He masterminded the destruction of the UN headquarters in Iraq."
"Through his every action, he sought to defeat America and our coalition partners...to achieve these ends he worked to divide Iraqis and incite civil war."
"Now Zarqawi has met his end and this violent man will never murder again."
"Iraqis can be justly proud of their new government."
"Americans be enormously proud of their American forces...who put him out of business."
"Conducted with courage and professionalism by the finest military in the world."
"Last night their persistence and patience paid off."
"Zarqawi is dead, but the difficult and necessary mission in Iraq continues."
"We can expect the (insurgency and sectarian divide to continue) yet the ideology of terror has lost one of its most visible and aggressive leaders."
"Zarqawi's death is a blow to al-Qaeda; it is a victory in the war on terror."
"I assured PM Maliki that he will have the full support of the United States of America."
Bush meeting at Camp David this week, Iraq's ambassador, teleconference discussion with the PM
"We have tough days ahead of us in Iraq that will require the continued patience of the American people, but the developments of the last 24 hours give us confidence about the final outcome."
I want it noted that Candy Crowley of CNN called the President's statement "pitch perfect." She commended him for not overselling the victory, emphasizing pride in the troops to overcome the "stain of Haditha," conceding that the insurgency and sectarianism will continue, but also saying that this is a sign that the mission in Iraq is moving forward.
Mudville Gazette notes this prescient analysis from Strategy Page yesterday:
Given that Zarqawi has become a loose cannon and that his actions are handicapping Al Qaeda's efforts, it seems reasonable to expect that an accident may befall him at some point in the near future. If handled right it can be made to look like he went out in a blaze of glory fighting American troops or that he was foully murdered. Either way, al Qaeda gets rid of a problem and gains another "martyr."
The Mudville Gazette milblogs page is skeptical about this scenario, and has tons of commentary on developments, so keep scrolling.
Whoa. These are quotes pulled from an interview Michaal Berg just did with CNN. His son was Nick Berg, an American businessman beheaded on video by al-Qaeda in Iraq. The reporter asked how he felt about the death of the man who was responsible for his son's death:
"I'm sorry when any human being dies...and I feel bad for that. His death will reignite yet another wave of revenge. It's an endless cycle as long as people use violence to fight violence...When Nick was killed I felt that I had nothing left to lose...I was not a risk-taking person, but I've done things that have endangered me. I have been shot at...Every time we kill an Iraqi...we are creating a large number of people who are going to want vengeance. When are we ever gonna learn that that doesn't work?
...More and more of these everyday Iraqi people...lose it and join what people call the insurgency and what I call a people You can't really believe that that's a democracy there when the people running the elections are holding guns...
I'm not saying Saddam Hussein's a good man, but he's no worse than George Bush. Under Saddam Hussein, no al-Qaeda in Iraq; under George Bush, al-Qaeda. Under Saddam Hussein, relative stability; under George Bush, instability. Under Saddam Hussein, 30,000 deaths a year; under George Bush, about 50,000 deaths. I don't understand. Why is this better to have George Bush be the King of Iraq rather than Saddam Hussein?"
7:53 a.m., A Kos Kid questions the timing:
I suppose Osama will be caught in October,... (4+ / 0-)
...just in time for the November elections.
The rest of that comment thread is a good read, too.
Military briefing in Iraq:
Maj. Gen. Bill Caldwell: "We have a lot of nations that were very active and involved in the effort here to create a free and prosperous Iraq...Jordan is an extremely important friend and partner and a good friend of Iraq's as they fight this war on terror."
Q: Any documents or intelligence found that would help you elimininate terrorist elements?
"We did find some information...The strike last night did not occur in a 24-hour period...human sources, signal intelligence...that was done over a period of many, many weeks."
"We then conducted 17 simultaneous raids...a tremendous amount of intelligence was collected...I mean, it was a treasure trove, no question...Now that we have got him, it allows us to go after all these other targets that we had been using to establish his movements."
Q: Classify in any way the treasure trove that you found? Were they all in Baghdad?
"We had absolutely no doubt that Zarqawi was in the house. It was 100-percent confirmation...We knew it was Zarqawi and that was the deliberate target that we went to get."
"The information that we were able to gather is currently being used and exploited...inappropriate to talk about it."
Q: How prove he is Zarqawi? DNA test?
"We in fact are doing a DNA analysis. We would hope within 48 hours to have that information back to us...although we did do a fingerprint 100 percent indentification match."
Q: Tell us a little bit more about al-Rachman and how long you've been following him?
"He was the spritual adviser to Zarqawi. He was brought to our attention by someone in the network with Zarqawi...We had clear enough evidence about a month and a half ago that allowed us...to prosecute that action we took last night."
Q: You said that the last Zarqawi tape encouraged you? Did you need to wait three or four years to take him out?
"Last night was the first time that we had definitive...information of where he was located, knowing that we could strike that target without collateral damage...so we made that decision to strike last night."
Q: Killing of Zarqawi won't stop violence. Will you take any specific measures to fight attacks after this point?
"The Prime Minister himself has developed...Baghdad security plan... He's asked coalition forces to work with him...The coalition forces are just so excited for the government of Iraq and what can happen in the future now that those leaders are in place."
Q: Tell me a little more about the unit doing tracking of Rachman?
"We have a policy, we don't talk about when Special Ops are involved in an operation...It was truly a coalition effort. This was not one particular unit."
Q: The President said in his statement that it was Special Ops involved in tracking. Is that the case?
"If the President of the United States said it was, then I guess it was."
Q: Iraqis are questioning the timing, was it set to coincide with announcement of new ministers?
"I would only wish we were that good to be able to time that...that's quite a compliment that people think we'd be able to time that this early in a new government."
"No, there was nothing at all in terms of timing between those two events."
9:15 a.m.: Rumsfeld is speaking, story in a bit. He's entertaining, as usual, but no new news.
Yikes, Sky News has a picture of Zarqawi's body (not terribly gruesome).
Here are Tony Blair's comments from earlier today:
So I do not minimize the enormous challenges that remain in Iraq and elsewhere, but the election of the new government and its full formation today shows a new spirit to succeed. And our task, obviously, is to turn that spirit, that willingness and desire to succeed into effective action.
If we are able to do so, then we will have accomplished something that goes far beyond the borders of Iraq.
I've long argued, as you know, that whatever the debate over the original decision to remove Saddam, for the past three years since his removal a struggle of a different nature has taken shape.
The Washington Post has video of the attack from the bomber that took out the target, which was shown by the U.S. military.
Let Freedom Ring blog has been on this since about 3 a.m., so check in with him for his initial reactions.
The video of Iraqi Security Forces dancing in the streets on Fox News is great. Fox is also playing quiet "ding-dong" sound-effects over the "Zarqawi is Dead" graphic. A friend of mine points out that the coverage on CNN and other channels mostly consists of commentary from peace activists and Dems, while Fox runs a "dead and alive" graphic with side-by-side mugshots of the terrorist in both states. Very different tone.
10:15 a.m. White House briefing scheduled. Tony Snow offers timeline for when the administration knew what:
3:30 p.m.-- President met in Roosevelt Room with members of five Congressional delegations to Iraq. Rep. Ray LaHood suggested that someone should get Zarqawi. There was some snickering in the room at the time. Little did we know.
3:45 p.m.-- Hadley heard there had been a strike and they thought thet had him, didn't think he should make an announcement because they weren't sure.
4:20 p.m.-- Rumsfeld called Hadley.
4:45 p.m.-- Bush in Oval Office with Rice, Hadley, Bolten. Hadley advised him that there was a strike that might have gotten Zarqawi, to which Bush responded, "that would be a good thing."
9:10 p.m.-- Joint Chiefs of Staff said forensics matched up.
9:20 p.m.-- Hadley called the President and informed him.
6:45 a.m.-- He and Blair spoke, telling the PM what happened.
7 a.m.-- Phone call with Maliki. Said he had shown strong leadership by making decisions and standing by them, talked about goals for Iraq, "you're going to have our help, you have my confidence because you've shown you can lead," invited him to join by teleconference at Camp David on Tuesday.
A couple of Snow highlights. He's very, very good:
To a question posed about the "PR" aspect of the Zarqawi killing:
"This was not PR. PR is selling soap. This is building a basis for democracy in Iraq."
He also asked at one point why the press was so "hell-bent" on getting troop level numbers changed or dates set for pull-out.