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U.S. Military Clarifies Zarqawi Death from Air Strike

June 9, 2006 at 6:05 PM EDT

KWAME HOLMAN: It seemed unlikely anyone could have lived
through the massive U.S. air
strike north of Baghdad yesterday, but that’s
the news U.S.
military spokesman Major General William Caldwell delivered to reporters at the
Pentagon via satellite.

MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL, Spokesman, Multi-National
Force-Iraq: What I can tell you is that, again, from the debriefs this morning,
which gave us greater clarity than what we had before, is Zarqawi, in fact, did
survive the air strike.

The report specifically states that nobody else did survive,
though, from what they know.

The first people on the scene were the Iraqi police. They
had found him and put him into some kind of gurney-stretcher kind of thing, and
then American coalition forces arrived immediately thereafter onsite. They
immediately went to the person in the stretcher, were able to start identifying
him by some distinguishing marks on his body.

After the strike

JOURNALIST: Sorry, did anyone render medical assistance tohim? Did U.S.troops try and render medical assistance?

MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL: They went into the process toprovide medical care to him.

JOURNALIST: Sir, had he been shot?

MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL: No, there was there nothing inthe report that said he had received any wounds from some kind of weaponssystem like that.

JOURNALIST: Was Zarqawi able to speak? Did he say anything,either to the Iraqi police or the American soldiers?

MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL: If he said something to theIraqi police, I'm not aware of it. According to the reports by the coalitionforces that arrived onsite, he mumbled a little something, but it wasindistinguishable, and it was very short.

Pictures of the body

JOURNALIST: How can you be sure that Zarqawi died as aresult of the wounds he received from the explosion without a formal autopsy? And,secondly, when you were cleaning him up, did you have to Photoshop his face oranything to make him more recognizable for the picture?

MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL: To take your second question,first, yes, Jeff, his face was very, very bloodied. And we made a consciousdecision that, if we were going to take photographs of him and make themavailable publicly, like we did in the press conference, that we were goingclean him up.

Despite the fact that this person actually had no regard forhuman life, we were not going to treat him in the same manner. And so they didclean his face up for the shots that were shown publicly.

As far as the autopsy goes, I know that, quote, "was anautopsy" done, but I'm going to go back to make sure that it was performedby whatever the certified kind of person that we're supposed to have so we cancall it an autopsy and make sure I'm exactly correct before I tell you that.

Surviving the blast

JOURNALIST: Was there any plastic surgery used toreconstruct his face to make it more presentable before yesterday's news conference?

MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL: There was none that I know of. I'llverify that by going back and asking the question, but I did not see it statedanywhere that, in fact, that had occurred, so I don't think it did. But I'llverify that for you.

JOURNALIST: And, General, everybody's asking the question: Howpossibly could he have survived seemingly intact after two 500-pound bombs weredropped on that facility? Was he outside? Was he thrown clear? Is there anyvisibility on why he was able to survive those two bombs?

MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL: There are cases when people, infact, can survive even an attack like that on a building structure. Obviously,the other five in the building did not, but he did for some reason. And we donot know -- and I've looked through the reports -- as to whether or not it wasbecause he might have been right outside or whatever. We just don't have thatgranularity.

Other casualties

KWAME HOLMAN: Caldwellalso provided new details about the attack's aftermath. In addition to AbuMusab al-Zarqawi, five other people were confirmed killed in the blasts but,contrary to earlier reports, no children were among the dead. U.S. forces recovered a hiddencache of weaponry, ammunition belts, Iraqi army uniforms, and other materialsnear Zarqawi's hideout.

Caldwell also told reportersabout Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the man the U.S.military expects to take over al-Qaida in Iraq.

MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL: What we do know about him: He'sEgyptian-born. We know that he and Zarqawi met each other at the al-Farouqtraining camp in Afghanistan, probably some time in the early 2001 to 2002 timeperiod.

We know that al-Masri came to Iraq before Zarqawi did,probably located somewhere around the Baghdad area some time in around 2003,established probably the first al-Qaida in Iraq cell here in the Baghdad area,and that they've continued a very close relationship since that time.

KWAME HOLMAN: Today in Baghdad,worshippers headed to Friday prayers on foot because of the curfew.

RAY SUAREZ: A small correction: The strike that killedal-Zarqawi occurred on Wednesday, not yesterday, as stated earlier.