Military officials 'tend to believe' al-Zarqawi is hurt
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. military officials "tend to believe" Internet postings suggesting that the most wanted terrorist in Iraq is wounded, the nation's top general said Sunday.
Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the military has followed postings on an Islamist Web site that said Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- whom U.S. and Iraqi officials call the top al Qaeda figure in Iraq -- has injuries.
"Because we follow these Web sites, we tend to believe that that's probably true. We don't know more than that right now," Myers told "Fox News Sunday."
In Baghdad, Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, director of the Combined Press Information Center, said, "We don't know the state of [al-Zarqawi's] health. We're still actively looking for him. We've seen the reports on the Web, but they have not altered our operations on the ground. We have nothing to validate the reports."
U.S. and Iraqi authorities say al-Zarqawi was behind many of the insurgent attacks across Iraq. One Islamist Web site, in a posting Friday, said he is "well and leading jihadi operations."
Al-Zarqawi's group has claimed responsibility for car bombings, kidnappings and beheadings in Iraq.
This month, the U.S. military said it had seized a letter from Iraqi insurgents believed to be intended for al-Zarqawi complaining about low morale among followers and weakening support for the insurgency. (Full story)
The United States has posted a $25 million reward for information leading to al-Zarqawi's capture. He's described as the most wanted man in Iraq. The reward has generated "a lot of tips and a lot of rumors of Zarqawi sightings," said Lt. Gen. James Conway, director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff last week.
The Bush administration has identified al-Zarqawi as an al Qaeda terrorist who fled to Iraq from Afghanistan in May 2002 for medical treatment.
The U.S. military believes it "came close" to capturing him on February 20, when his car was stopped outside Ramadi. He is believed to have fled on foot, but his laptop computer, containing a "wealth of information," was recovered from the car, Pentagon sources said. (Full story)
Pentagon officials say al-Zarqawi is on the run and express confidence that he will be captured or killed in a matter of time.
Earlier this month U.S. troops went to a hospital in Ramadi after receiving a tip that "terrorists" had been treated. Some rumors suggested al-Zarqawi himself was ill or wounded and had sought treatment there.
"We came away empty-handed. We didn't find anyone or any confirmation that he was ever in the hospital," said a U.S. military official in Baghdad. "These rumors pop up regularly. We check them out when they seem credible."
According to the U.S. government, al-Zarqawi stayed in Iraq to organize terror plots with Ansar al-Islam, a radical Islamic group that operated a training camp in northern Iraq that came under the control of the U.S.-led coalition in the 2003 invasion.
Last year al-Zarqawi pledged his allegiance to Osama bin Laden, who later praised the insurgent's work against coalition troops in Iraq.