Zarqawi killed in air strike

By: Aleen Sirgany, CBS News
By: Aleen Sirgany, CBS News

The most wanted terrorist in Iraq is dead -- and the Pentagon showed pictures to prove it.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al-Qaeda leader in Iraq who directed a campaign of suicide bombings and beheadings of hostages, has been taken out by the US military during an air strike north of Baghdad.

Cheers and celebration from Iraqis followed the announcement from Iraq's prime minister. At the White House President Bush said Zarqawi's death has ended a difficult mission, but cautioned the Jordanian terrorist didn't act alone.

"We can expect the terrorists and insurgents to carry on without him," Bush said. "We can expect the sectarian violence to continue. Yet the ideology of terror has lost one of its most visible and aggressive leaders."

The Pentagon showed how it happened. Two F-16 warplanes dropped two five hundred pound bombs on the site. CBS News has learned that US intelligence got a specific tip, apparently from someone inside Zarqawi's own organization, saying Zarqawi would be meeting with top aides in a house near Baqouba. That's when the fighter jets were called in.

"We couldn't use ground forces because he might get away," said defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld. "That's when the decision was made to use air power."

The immediate impact of Zarqawi's death is unclear but some caution Zarqawi will now become a martyr and that will fuel the insurgency and possible retaliation attacks on Americans. The strike that killed Zarqawi and seven top aides was followed by at least seventeen other raids in which troops collected a huge amount of new intelligence.

"It was a treasure trove. No question," said Maj. Gen. William Caldwell of the U.S. Army.

Over the next few days, President Bush will meet with his cabinet and national security team in Camp David and will have a teleconference with Iraq's prime minister to discuss the future of the war-torn country.

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