FIRST, Let's enjoy this for the success that it is and not make it a political thread.
I know inevitably someone will and this thread will have to be closed, but I felt this news was worthy of being on this site and not the Peanut Gallery.
Iraqi Prime Minister: al-Zarqawi Killed In Air Raid North Of Baghdad
POSTED: 3:27 am EDT June 8, 2006
UPDATED: 4:29 am EDT June 8, 2006
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BAGHDAD, Iraq -- 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 raid north of Baghdad -- a major victory in the U.S.-led war in Iraq and the broader war on terror.
Iraq's prime minister and U.S. officials said his identity was confirmed by fingerprints and a first-hand look at his face.
The announcement came six days after the Jordanian-born terror leader appeared in a videotape, railing against Shiites in Iraq and saying militias are raping women and killing Sunnis and the community must fight back.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said al-Zarqawi was killed along with seven aides Wednesday evening in a house 30 miles northeast of Baghdad in the volatile province of Diyala, just east of the provincial capital of Baqouba, al-Maliki said.
"Today, al-Zarqawi was eliminated," al-Maliki told a news conference, drawing loud applause from reporters as he was flanked by U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and U.S. Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq.
Al-Maliki said the air strike was the result of intelligence reports provided to Iraqi security forces by residents in the area, and U.S. forces acted on the information.
"Those who disrupt the course of life, like al-Zarqawi, will have a tragic end," he said.
He also warned those who follow the militant's lead that "whenever there is a new al-Zarqawi, we will kill him."
"This is a message for all those who embrace violence, killing and destruction to stop and to (retreat) before it's too late," he said. "It is an open battle with all those who incite sectarianism."
Khalilzad added "the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is a huge success for Iraq and the international war on terror." He also gave a thumbs up and said it was a good day for the United States.
Casey said the hunt for al-Zarqawi began in the area two weeks ago, and al-Zarqawi's body was identified by fingerprints and facial recognition.
The Jordanian-born militant, who was believed to have personally beheaded at least two American hostages, became Iraq's most wanted militant, as notorious as Osama bin Laden, to whom he swore allegiance in 2004. The United States put a $25 million bounty on his head, the same as bin Laden.
In the past year, he moved his campaign beyond Iraq's borders, claiming to have carried out a Nov. 9, 2005, triple suicide bombing against hotels in Amman, Jordan, that killed 60 people, as well as other attacks in Jordan and even a rocket attack from Lebanon into northern Israel.
U.S. forces and their allies came close to capturing al-Zarqawi several times since his campaign began in mid-2003.
His closest brush may have come in late 2004. Deputy Interior Ministry Maj. Gen. Hussein Kamal said Iraqi security forces caught al-Zarqawi near the insurgent stronghold of Fallujah but then released him because they didn't realize who he was.
In May 2005, Web statements by his group said al-Zarqawi had been wounded in fighting with Americans and was being treated in a hospital abroad - raising speculation over a successor among his lieutenants. But days later, a statement said al-Zarqawi was fine and had returned to Iraq. There was never any independent confirmation of the reports of his wounding.
U.S. forces believe they just missed capturing al-Zarqawi in a Feb. 20, 2005 raid in which troops closed in on his vehicle west of Baghdad near the Euphrates River. His driver and another associate were captured and al-Zarqawi's computer was seized along with pistols and ammunition.
U.S. troops twice launched massive invasions of Fallujah, the stronghold used by al-Qaida in Iraq fighters and other insurgents west of Baghdad. An April 2004 offensive left the city still in insurgent hands, but the October 2004 assault wrested it from them. However, al-Zarqawi -- if he was in the city -- escaped.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed