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U.S., Iraqi Leaders Hail al-Zarqawi Death

With news of al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's death in a U.S. air strike Wednesday, President Bush called his death a victory in the war on terror and an opportunity for Iraq to "turn the tide" against the insurgency.

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  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Now, a terrorist and his legacy, and to correspondent Kwame Holman.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    The truck bomb was massive, destroying the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad and killing its top diplomat, along with 21 others. That attack in August 2003 marked the beginning of a full-throated insurgency in Iraq against the U.S. and coalition occupation.

    At the time, few people knew the mastermind of the attack. But within a month, the name of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi became a very familiar one.

    GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States: Al-Zarqawi, an al-Qaida operative…

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    Today, the death of the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq was heralded by Mr. Bush and his top officials as a victory in the war on terror.

  • GEORGE W. BUSH:

    Zarqawi was the operational commander of the terrorist movement in Iraq. He led a campaign of car bombings, assassinations and suicide attacks that has taken the lives of many American forces and thousands of innocent Iraqis.

    Osama bin Laden called this Jordanian terrorist the prince of al-Qaida in Iraq; he called on the terrorists around the world to listen to him and obey him.

    DONALD RUMSFELD, U.S. Secretary of Defense: Over the last several years, no single person on this planet has had the blood of more innocent men, women and children on his hands than Zarqawi.

    He personified the dark, sadistic and medieval vision of the future, of beheadings, suicide bombings, and indiscriminate killings, a behavior pattern that has been rejected by the overwhelming majority of the Iraqi people, whether Sunni, Shias or Kurds, and certainly by the overwhelming majority of Muslims worldwide.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    The Jordanian militant has been blamed for numerous violent incidents since the U.N. attack. Their dramatic effect dominated much of the news coming out of Iraq and was considered a key element in the escalation of violence between Sunni and Shia Arabs, such as this attack last January on a police station in the Shiite city of Karbala.

    At least 130 Iraqis were killed. The blast came just weeks after Iraq's parliamentary election.

    A Sunni Arab, Zarqawi often took aim at Iraqi Shiites.

    ABU MUSAB AL-ZARQAWI, Former Leader of al-Qaida in Iraq (through translator): We declare an all-out war against the renegade Shiites all over Iraq, wherever they are. You started the aggression. Beware of our anger. We swear by God that we will never show mercy to you.

  • KWAME HOLMAN:

    That audio tape surfaced before an attack on one of the most revered mosques of Shiite Islam in Samarra in February. Although no one was killed in the blast, it sparked weeks of sectarian strife that would result in many Iraqi deaths.

    Sometimes Zarqawi's targeting was particularly gruesome. In 2004, insurgents detonated car bombs at a community celebration in Baghdad while U.S. soldiers handed out candy. Three dozen children were killed, many more wounded.

    The international leadership of al-Qaida, to whom Zarqawi pledged allegiance in 2004, has at times disputed his tactics. A letter from Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaida's number-two worldwide, said Muslim civilians should not be targeted in Iraq. The authenticity of the letter, posted on a U.S. intelligence Web site, was disputed by al-Qaida.

    Two of Zarqawi's highest-profile attacks took place in his home country of Jordan: the triple-suicide bombings against hotels in Amman last November that killed 60; and the 2002 assassination of U.S. diplomat Laurence Foley.

    Zarqawi also orchestrated the videotaped beheadings of several Western hostages, including British contractor Kenneth Bigley and American businessman Nicholas Berg. A masked Zarqawi purportedly decapitated Berg himself.

    Zarqawi also posted videos online to expand his reach and recruit troops to join his cause. U.S. intelligence officials have said Zarqawi's network now spans as many as 40 other countries.

    In July of 2004, the U.S. more than doubled the bounty on his head to $25 million. U.S. forces were until now unable to apprehend him but had captured or killed nearly 100 of his deputies.

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