June 8th, 2006 06:51 EST
Terrorist Leader Zarqawi's Death Called
Washington -- President Bush announced June 8 that Jordanian-born terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had been killed June 7 in a precision air strike by U.S. special operations forces in Iraq, in what he described as a “severe blow to al-Qaida and … a significant victory in the War on Terror.”
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Bush described Zarqawi as “the operational commander of the terrorist movement in Iraq,” who led a campaign of car bombings, assassinations, and suicide attacks against Iraqi civilians and coalition forces in Iraq.
Zarqawi also personally beheaded American hostages and other civilians in Iraq, and was responsible for violence in Jordan such as the assassination of an American diplomat and the bombing of three Amman hotels.
According to news reports, U.S. forces were acting on tips and intelligence from sources close to Zarqawi when they struck the terrorist leader and several close associates at a rural house near the city of Baqubah using two 500-pound precision-guided bombs.
Bush said the persistence and determination of coalition and Iraqi forces had been rewarded after a year of near misses and false leads. “Now Zarqawi has met his end, and this violent man will never murder again,” Bush said.
In a June 8 statement, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad called Zarqawi the “Godfather” of sectarian violence in Iraq. He said Zarqawi “declared a civil war within Islam and a global war of civilizations. His organization has been responsible for the death of thousands of civilians in Iraq and abroad.”
Zarqawi’s stated aim was to foment sectarian strife between his fellow Sunni Muslims and Iraq’s Shi’a Muslim majority.
Khalilzad called on the leaders of Iraq’s religious and ethnic communities to put an end to the civil strife and unite behind the leadership of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Bush warned that terrorists and insurgents in Iraq can be expected to continue fighting and that sectarian violence will likely continue, but he said, “The ideology of terror has lost one of its most visible and aggressive leaders.”
The president congratulated Prime Minister al-Maliki on the close collaboration between coalition and Iraqi forces in the hunt for Zarqawi, as well as the prime minister’s completion of his cabinet appointments. Shortly after the announcement of Zarqawi’s death, the Iraqi parliament overwhelmingly approved al-Maliki’s nominees for the three remaining vacant cabinet posts. These included the ministries of defense and the interior as well as secretary of state for national security. (See Iraq’s Political Process.)
Bush said Iraq’s ambassador to the United States would join him and the U.S. national security team at Camp David June 13 for a teleconference discussion with Prime Minister al-Maliki’s government.
“Together we will discuss how to best deploy America's resources in Iraq, and achieve our shared goal of an Iraq that can govern itself, defend itself and sustain itself,” Bush said.
The transcript of Bush’s remarks is available on White House Web site; the full text Khalilzad’s statement is available on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad’s Web site.
For additional information, see Iraq Update.
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)