June 9, 2006


Years of searching ended with a tip, a trail, airstrikes (Nancy A. Youssef and Drew Brown, 6/09/06, Knight Ridder Newspapers)

The two F-16 fighter jets had been circling above a remote area west of Baqouba for more than four hours Wednesday evening when the order came for them to lock their weapons onto a small house in the village of Hibhib. The pilots didn't know who was inside, but U.S. commanders were certain that they did: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the most wanted man in Iraq.

The commanders ordered the planes to attack. It was 6:15 p.m., officials said. One of the planes dropped a GBU-12 laser-guided bomb, a precision weapon carrying 500 pounds of explosives that in the Persian Gulf War won a reputation for hitting its target 88 percent of the time. The house went up in a cloud of dust — its final moments captured by the fighter jet's camera.

Just to be sure, commanders ordered a second strike, and the same plane dropped a second bomb, a 500-pound GBU-38, a weapon that got its first use in combat in 2004 during another effort to kill al-Zarqawi.

Two minutes later, according to the time stamp on a photo that American officials displayed Thursday, U.S. officials photographed al-Zarqawi's lifeless head. [...]

The cost of the munitions that ended his life, according to descriptions of the weapons: less than $40,000 combined.

Note how absurd this makes the notion of a group we disapprove of ever assuming day-to-day governance of Iraq?

A remote farm surrounded by date palms - Zarqawi's last hiding place (Michael Howard in Irbil, Julian Borger in Washington, Ian Cobain and Brian Whitaker, June 9, 2006, The Guardian)

For once, at least, the words "precision air strike" were not far wide of the mark.

U.S. airstrike kills Iraq terror chief Zarqawi (Bill Nichols and Matt Kelley, 6/09/06, USA TODAY)
U.S. and Iraqi intelligence found Zarqawi by following Abu Abdul-Rahman al-Iraqi, his spiritual adviser and deputy, to a house near the village of Hibhib where he met with Zarqawi, said Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad.

Caldwell didn't specify how U.S. officials knew for sure that al-Iraqi would meet with Zarqawi, but he indicated that al-Iraqi had been watched for weeks and was considered key to Zarqawi's whereabouts.

"Somebody inside the al-Zarqawi network" had identified al-Iraqi, Caldwell said. "It truly was a very long, painstaking, deliberate exploitation of intelligence, information gathering, human sources, electronics, signal intelligence that was done over a period of time — many, many weeks."

U.S. officials would not name the source in al-Qaeda who clinched Zarqawi's fate. U.S. and Iraqi forces have killed or captured several high-ranking al-Qaeda figures in the past few months as the dragnet closed around Zarqawi. Raids against suspected insurgent hide-outs also have yielded a wealth of documents and other records, including outtakes of a videotape Zarqawi made as a recruitment tool.

The video and other documents came from raids on the town of Youssifiyah in April, during which three top Zarqawi lieutenants were killed or captured.

Another key development came March 7 with the capture by Iraqi police of a former top intelligence officer to Saddam Hussein, Muhammed Hila Hammad Ubaydi. That man, also known as Abu Ayman, had strong ties to Zarqawi and was responsible for several terrorist attacks, according to Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, another military spokesman.

Authorities nabbed Ubaydi after one of his top aides, a man known as Abu Qatada, was captured and began giving information to interrogators, Lynch said. He said military officials hoped Ubaydi would be willing to rat out Zarqawi. "As we detain individuals ... they tend to talk about their buddies," Lynch said at a news briefing last month. "Loyalty is not their strong suit."

Caldwell did not say whether the information from Zarqawi network insiders came from prisoners. But Maj. William Willhoite, a military spokesman in Baghdad, said, "I'm sure the informant was a detainee." The information that led U.S. and Iraqi operatives to al-Iraqi ultimately led to Zarqawi.

"The information that led to (Zarqawi's) location and to the attack that subsequently took place came from those that were arrested, senior members of al-Qaeda in Iraq that are in our custody," U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalizhad said Thursday on CNN.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 9, 2006 7:31 AM

An article by Liz Sly (Chicago Tribune) was entitled: "Al-Zarqawi's death a rare military win." Rare my eye! The left will downplay this as much as they possibly can.

Posted by: Bartman at June 9, 2006 10:38 AM