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CNN BREAKING NEWS
Reports of al-Zarqawi's Death in Raid
Aired June 8, 2006 - 05:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN CO-ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome everybody. Breaking news this morning. The most wanted man in Iraq is dead. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi killed last night in a coalition air strike near Baquba. His death confirmed just over an hour ago by the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the U.S. commander as well in Iraq, General George Casey.
Welcome everybody. I'm Soledad O'Brien.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CO-ANCHOR: And I'm Miles O'Brien. Good morning to you. A special edition of AMERICAN MORNING this morning. The announcement of al-Zarqawi's death, greeted by cheers just a short time ago during a news conference held in the Iraqi prime minister's office.
He killed, with seven aides, at a safe house about 35 miles north of Baghdad.
For more on this breaking news, we go to CNN's John Vause, who is in the capitol city.
John, just walk us through the events as we know them.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello Miles.
Well a short time ago from General Casey, this is how it all unfolded. About 19 hours ago a U.S. air strike north of the city of Baquba, as you mentioned, north of Baghdad, targeted an isolated safe house. Inside that house was Zarqawi along with seven other aides.
Apparently the multinational forces here and the Iraqi forces received information -- tips, as well as other intelligence from within Zarqawi's own network that this meeting was underway. An air strike was called in possibly by using helicopter gun ships. Soon after that air strike Iraqi police arrived on the scene and they discovered that Zarqawi was dead. He had been identified by his fingerprints, by facial recognition and also by known scars -- Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: This particular air strike, John, was based on some intelligence we're told by either residents nearby or perhaps even people inside the al-Zarqawi organization?
VAUSE: Yes. There seems to be a lot of information coming in about how this tip developed. There's also -- we've heard from the prime minister here that it was just ordinary Iraqis giving information. We've heard from the U.S. military that there was possibly intelligence coming from within Zarqawi's own organization. We're also hearing that Jordanian officials may have also been involved in this. They analyzed a video which Zarqawi released -- or was found rather -- back in April. They've analyzed that, providing intelligence as well. All of this coming together to give the exact location of where Zarqawi and his seven lieutenants were meeting here last night, local time -- Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: Let's put it in perspective. We were showing that video there, giving people a sense of how they were able to, you know, sort of get a sense of where he is. But let's back up for just a second, if we could, and remind people how many violent events in Iraq and really elsewhere Zarqawi has been linked to.
VAUSE: Well, it's very difficult to give you an exact number precisely what Zarqawi has ordered, what he's been responsible for, how many he's inspired. But what we do know, for example, the American Hostage Nick Berg who was beheaded. Zarqawi was believed to be the man who actually did the beheading.
Just last year in November, responsible for three suicide bombings in hotels in Amman, Jordan -- 16 dead there.
Also responsible for a string of suicide bombings from Casablanca in Morocco, to Istanbul in Turkey. Also believed responsible for firing of missiles from Lebanon into Israel.
This man has a very wide reach. He was releasing an audiotape just last Friday, calling on Sunnis to rise up against Shiites in Iraq. This is man who has been responsible and has inspired a lot of bloodshed in this country. He could be responsible for thousands, even more -- Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: It's interesting, though, when you think about it, John, all that he is linked to. And you look at that videotape the U.S. military quick to point out after it was released in April that he had some difficulty operating that AK-47. And others would tell you he's barely literate. How can somebody of that caliber, if you will on that one, lead such a series of devastating attacks so efficiently?
VAUSE: Well, this is a man who has a lot of experience, who's in Afghanistan with Osama bin Laden. He's spent a lot of time in jail in Jordan. Seven years in all, from 1992 to 1999. He came back to Iraq and made his mark in 2003, blowing up the U.N. headquarters. Yes, he is barely literate. He was described as a petty thug, a gangster in his younger days. But this is a man who found radical Islam while he was imprisoned in Jordan. He started his career there, threatening to blow up hotels at the end of the millennia there.
He was also responsible for plotting to blow up the Jordanian intelligence, as well as the prime minister's office in Jordan by using massive chemical weapons. A plot which was intercepted by Jordanian intelligence in April of 2004.
So, he has this ability to inspire people. It's still not know how. But obviously, he has those close to him. And he has managed to carry out these attacks.
I want to also point out something here. As far as the raid which happened near Baquba, we are expecting a lot more details from U.S. military here in about two hours from now, Miles, when they will hold their own briefing. And that is when we will get a lot more details, we hope, about precisely what happened north of Baquba around 6:15 last night.
M. O'BRIEN: All right. We will look forward to that. In the meantime, a final thought here. Zarqawi, clearly an instigator of the insurgency in some sense. With him being out of the picture, though, the insurgency goes on, doesn't it?
VAUSE: Everyone today from the prime minister to the U.S. ambassador here, to General Casey as well, all saying that this is an important step, but it is not the last step. Today is a good day, but it is not the only day which the multinational forces and the Iraqi forces will have to fight the insurgency. Everyone going to great lengths to point out that this is just one man.
A man responsible for a lot of death, but also there is fears, of course, that this will not end the violence. Some have suggested there may be an upswing in violence as revenge for the death of Zarqawi. That remains to be seen. But certainly, no one expects the violence and the bloodshed here in Iraq to end today. It is hoped that this will be a step along that road -- Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: All right, John Vause in Baghdad. We'll be back with you very shortly.
And as he just mentioned, a couple hours from now we expect to hear a full briefing from the U.S. military. But stay with us all throughout the morning as these details unfold -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: Coalition forces carried out that air strike, killing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi at a safe house north of Baghdad. The operation, we're told had been in the works for about two weeks.
Let's get right to David Ensor. He's joining us by phone.
David, thanks for joining us this morning. Listen, General Casey has given some details about the raid. What more do we know about what exactly happened?
DAVID ENSOR, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (on the phone): You know, U.S. intelligence officials this morning, Soledad, are deferring all of that to the U.S. military, but saying that there will be a lot more coming out in the coming hours.
They are, however, are calling this -- this killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi a devastating blow to al Qaeda in Iraq and worldwide. They are saying this is the most serious blow against al Qaeda since at least a year. And reminding people that this is the man who ordered the strike on the golden dome -- one of most holy places in Shia Islam in Samara, which has led to the level of violence that we are now seeing in Iraq. To the escalation of violence since then. There's been sort of ethnic killing, religiously based killing since then on a level that simply didn't exist before.
So, he is really a major part of the problem in Iraq. That said, like the officials that John has been hearing from in Iraq, officials this morning stressing that killing this one very key terrorist leader does not mean the end of the insurgency in Iraq -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: He's been described as sort of taking the thug approach to his leadership and working in bin Laden's image in a way, so that not only is he the leader, he's also got his hands very bloody. I mean, he was the person who actually beheaded Nicholas Berg.
When you talk about the effect on the insurgency, though, a blow to al Qaeda in Iraq, but the insurgency in a lot of ways is -- has been described as, you know, a network and kind of decentralized. What kind of blow do you think this really has upon the insurgency in Iraq?
ENSOR: You know, many of the car bombers, the suicide bombers in Iraq are believed to have had ties to Zarqawi's gang. But there is a sizeable group of insurgents in Iraq who have nothing to do with him. They are former Baathists, former close supporters of Saddam Hussein, or just disgruntled nationalists of one kind or another who are angry that there are foreign troops in their country and who are going after them.
So, nobody expects by any means for the insurgency to be stopped by this or even dramatically reduced. Although, it could lead to a reduction in the number of suicide bombings and foreign terrorists who are able to be active in Iraq.
This man really was a very effective organizer of mass scale terrorism. So his departure is extremely good news in the view of U.S. intelligence officials.
S. O'BRIEN: We've been showing, David, while you've been talking, this videotape that we first saw back in April, which is Zarqawi trying to work the machine gun and et cetera. And we're all familiar with these images now. To what degree is the fact that he really turned on the Iraqi people, where the Iraqi civilians and the Iraqi citizens were becoming targets of his terror and not just the U.S., Did that lead to his eventual targeting and then death?
ENSOR: No, as a matter of fact, that videotape, there are now Iraqis, this morning, saying that that videotape led to his demise. They are saying that there were Iraqi intelligence personnel who were able to identify where the tape was made and that that led to narrowing down the search somewhat in a way that it finally led to Zarqawi at this point.
Now, I don't know that. I can't confirm it from intelligence officials this morning. It is early. There aren't too many you can reach at the moment. But clearly, Zarqawi, a Jordanian, very violent man, you know, turned a certain number of Iraqis against him. You know, he's killed a lot of innocent people and there are many Iraqis who are angry at him for that. You will recall, Soledad, the letter that U.S. intelligence made public some time back, that they said was addressed to Zarqawi by Ahman al-Zawahiri, the number two man in al Qaeda, who is believed to be in hiding along with Osama bin Laden in the sort of Pakistani- Afghan border area on the Pakistani side of the border there. And in that letter, Zawahiri urged Zarqawi to stop doing so many dramatically bloody events, chopping off a Westerner's heads and sending videotapes to the media or putting them on the Internet.
He said this kind of thing is turning off the Muslims that we want to get to our side, rather than rallying them. So Zarqawi and the way he has behaved may have created some problems for al Qaeda, as well as being sort of their poster child in Iraq in recent years.
Certainly, his tactics are controversial even among terrorists -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: David Ensor, CNN's chief national security correspondent. David, thanks. We'll continue to check in with you throughout the morning -- Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: The death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and seven of his aides at a safe house northeast of Baghdad, some 30 miles northeast -- Obviously not so safe a house -- will be certainly heralded at the White House this morning, is as we speak.
Ed Henry is in Washington for us this morning with more on word from the administration.
I suspect we'll be hearing from the president sometime soon.
ED HENRY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Oh you can bet that we will, Miles. Good morning to you.
I don't know if you can tell, but the White House behind me is dark, but I've been in touch with officials who are saying that of course the White House has been kept abreast of this situation through the Pentagon.
This is very much like the situation a couple years back when Saddam Hussein was captured. That was not announced by the White House, it was announced by Paul Bremer, you'll remember, when he famously said, "We got him!"
It was made through the coalition officials in Baghdad. It was not made by the White House, but very quickly, eventually the White House got out there and they certainly will hear the death of al- Zarqawi is something especially the president will want to be commenting on. His popularity has taken such a plunge, mostly because of the war in Iraq, down to the low to mid 30s.
And also, all of these questions about the formation of the new government in Iraq, the president has been looking for good news like this to jump on. He has been touting the fact that the new Iraqi government has gotten up and running, but there have been a lot of questions in the last couple of days about the fact that those two key posts, defense and interior, had not been formed in the new Iraqi cabinet.
But I think it's perhaps almost as important that just in the last few hours the new Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki has announced that he has now filled those defense and interior positions. It was something that was weighing on the White House. They had been getting a lot of tough questions in recent days about whether or not this Iraqi government really was up and running.
And I think when you take these two events now, these are going to be two events President Bush himself is going to want to jump on and jump on quickly -- Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: Yes, it was interesting to me that the prime minister al-Maliki would make that kind of an announcement, such a significant announcement, defense and interior ministries, perhaps being overshadowed by the news of Zarqawi. But as you point out, perhaps more important news today in some respects.
HENRY: In the long run, absolutely. And obviously as David Ensor was pointing out, we're still trying to get a handle, as U.S. intelligence officials are, in terms of how damaging this will be to the insurgency. That is obviously a critical issue for the world, for the White House in particular. Politically, it will have major ramifications. But the formation of the Iraqi government, the formation of the cabinet, also a major political development.
The White House has been certainly concerned privately in recent days about just whether it was teetering or not. Just how good of a development it was. Those are two key posts, defense and interior, which oversees the police. Something that has been critical. The fact that the prime minister has now announced those positions, something that you can bet the White House will also be touting. And you're going to see that very quickly this morning, you can bet -- Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: I wonder how quick it will be before we hear calls from some corners that if you can get Zarqawi, why have we not found Osama bin Laden yet.
HENRY: Oh, you can bet that will be another question. The president has a few public events this morning. He will be speaking at the Hispanic prayer breakfast first of all. Shortly after -- I believe in the 8:00 o'clock hour, just in a few hours here, Eastern Time. He also has some events at the White House. There will be some press availabilities.
But in addition to those that already on the books, you can bet the White House also will be taking a look at whether or not the president will be doing any other special press availability. But that will be one question the president will get. Where is Osama bin Laden as well? If we can get al-Zarqawi, why has it been so long on Osama bin Laden.
And obviously, the White House is going to take any good news it can get. But they're certainly going to get that question as well -- Miles. M. O'BRIEN: Ed Henry in Washington. Back with you in a little bit. Thank you -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: Details on exactly how Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was targeted and then killed are just emerging.
Let's get right to Barbara Starr. She's at the Pentagon this morning.
Barbara, good morning.
BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, Soledad. That is going to be the story of the day. How did the U.S. and Iraqi military pull all this off?
We do have already one perhaps very significant clue. In an official press statement from Baghdad just a little while ago, they said, quote, "Tips and intelligence from Iraqi senior leaders from Zarqawi's network led U.S. forces to conduct this raid."
Now that is potentially, Soledad, very significant. Iraqi senior leaders in the Zarqawi network. What we have been told generally over the last several weeks and months is that so many of the foreign fighters that Zarqawi had brought into Iraq in the initial months of the insurgency, so many of his top lieutenants had either been captured or killed, that Zarqawi was being forced to turn to Iraqis for his new leadership council.
That, apparently, of course, has led to some of this reliance on Iraqi fighters, has perhaps made Zarqawi more vulnerable in the country. So it's quite interesting that already they are saying here today, Iraqi senior leaders from his network gave them the intelligence, gave them the tip off that led them to be able to conduct this air raid north of Baquba last night in Iraq.
The other interesting point that one can sort of define from looking at all of this is how fast once they got the intelligence tip, that they were able to conduct the raid. Because that has consistently been the problem in trying to get to people like Zarqawi, to get to people like bin Laden.
The intelligence tip is then followed by several hours of trying to get an aircraft up in the air or a predator, unmanned drone, or some kind of weapon on target, if you will. Because Zarqawi, of course, moves around a good deal, we have been told. Although his circle of being able to move has narrowed in recent weeks, he has become more isolated. Still, he is not a man that stays in the same place very often.
So, another interesting clue already emerging. If the intelligence came from Iraqis affiliated with Zarqawi, and if they were able to act on that piece of intelligence fast enough, it is an indicator of just how vulnerable Zarqawi was inside Iraq -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: The word we heard, Barbara, earlier today was unprecedented help. And I'm curious and it seems like a couple things came together. First, Zarqawi, a 38-year-old Jordanian, a true outsider. And the targeting of Iraqi civilians really increasing. You know, the focus moving away from Americans and really heavily onto the Shiite population. That had to play a role in the civilians sort of getting ready, you know, getting sick of the violence, I would think.
And also, I'd be curious to know, the videotape at the same time, providing clues, maybe giving people who are not even necessarily in the upper ranks of his leadership, a sense of like where he might be.
STARR: Well, that videotape, of course, now is several days, if not weeks old. It will be very interesting as we learn more throughout the day whether he was killed in the area where that videotape was made. Because, of course, that would indicate that Zarqawi didn't have the confidence in his own security to move around. All these days, all these weeks later, to be in exactly the same location would have in fact made him extremely vulnerable.
So, if he was so isolated and his own security apparatus so fragile that he was forced to stay in the same area now as when that videotape was made many days ago, that would be an indicator of how vulnerable he is.
And I think as we learn more through the day, it will be very interesting to learn what role, if any, the Jordanian government, Jordanian intelligence services might have played in all of this, in working with Iraqis inside Iraq and providing information on where they thought Zarqawi might be, in looking at that videotape and trying to learn any locations from that.
Without question, Soledad, we know that the Jordanian government, that the Jordanian royal family, King Abdullah, very, very determined to see Zarqawi brought to justice after those hotel bombings in Amman, Jordan. That had really become a very significant priority with the Jordanian government to be able to deliver to their own people the news that Zarqawi is captured or now killed, is very significant. That is someone the Jordanian government wanted very badly and was determined to help the U.S. get -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: Barbara, before I let you go, when are we going to get a briefing from the U.S. military on the details, really find out what exactly happened?
STARR: Very early in the morning here in the Pentagon. The Pentagon really isn't up and running for business on any official basis just yet. Secretary Rumsfeld continues to be in Brussels at a NATO meeting. What we don't know is when and if he will step before the cameras and make a statement.
This building tends to follow the White House political lead. I think we can expect to hear from the White House first and then perhaps some sort of detailed information coming either out of the Pentagon or U.S. military officials in Baghdad -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us. Barbara, thanks -- Miles. M. O'BRIEN: 39-year-old Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is dead. A U.S. air strike at 30 miles northeast of Baghdad. Baquba is the area, in a supposed safe house, killing he and seven other aides. And he, considered one of the main masterminds of terror in Iraq.
But on one of the extreme websites, the extremist websites, Islamist websites this morning, they're saying there will be 200 million other al-Zarqawis to follow him.
To follow up on that point, let's go to Christiane Amanpour, who joins us now live from London.
Let's try to put Zarqawi into some perspective, Christiane. He's one person. He's also one person who is responsible for an awful lot of violence. With him out of the picture, how do things change on the ground in Iraq?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Miles, he's one person, but like Osama bin Laden, he's one very important person. He's the spiritual and the operational leader of al Qaeda in Iraq. So, his death has an important morale factor, has an important psychological factor against, you know, for his supporters and potentially for recruitment.
However, as most analysts and even the U.S. and other officials in Iraq today are saying, this will not be the end of the insurgency. Because as we've seen over the last years, we've had many, many announcements of key lieutenants, of key al Qaeda figures being captured or killed and it has not dented in the insurgency in Iraq, which as we know, has been gathering strength really over the last several years.
Nonetheless, the death and the capture of Zarqawi, very important, not just for the psychological reason, but as Barbara Starr said, for the operational reason. If it is true that Iraqi leaders inside Zarqawi's operation were the ones to betray him, then it's really important. Because the whole way to get at the end of this insurgency is to deny the insurgence and their leaders space. In other words, safe havens, space, support from the civilians and from the people who enable them to keep working.
And if that space is shrinking, then that is good news. But at the moment, many analysts are cautioning, as is the U.S. ambassador in Iraq, cautioning, don't think that this is the end of the insurgency. It's not, but it is an important day.
Zarqawi, himself, so identified and responsible for the most violent, the most vicious aspects of this insurgency, the wanton beheadings publicly shown on videotape, the wave of kidnappings, the really fermenting of the deep sectarian strife that now exists in Iraq. The bombings against Shiite mosques, against Shiite police recruits, against army recruits, against installations. The bombing of the U.N. compound back in August of 2003 in Iraq, the bombing of the big Shiite mosque in Najar for that same month, the bombing of Iraqi installations and Italian installations in 2003.
And the constant hammering away at sectarian violence and against the Shiites has been his whole mark.
M. O'BRIEN: Christiane, let's talk about the fact that Zarqawi was Jordanian. In a sense, that sort of allowed to be a little chink or some leverage for the intelligence which led to this because perhaps many of the homegrown insurgents, the Iraqis, had some degree of jealousy that a Jordanian was in fact on their turf, leading this insurgency. Is that accurate to say?
AMANPOUR: You know, it's hard to tell what emotions, but certainly what we've been told by U.S. commanders and others over the last several months is that they believe that they have identified a split, if you like, between the insurgent factions.
And most notably, a split between the Iraqi homegrown insurgents, which still form the bulk of the insurgency, and who are not necessarily affected by Zarqawi's death. But the split between them and between the foreign Jihadis, who for the most part, Zarqawi leads. Because of the reprehensible, overly bloody, murderous tactics that Zarqawi has used, the wholesale killing of civilians has really turned a lot of the other insurgents off.
And so, U.S. and other officials have been trying to exploit the differences between those insurgent groups. Potentially, that may have led to this action. Potentially, it may be his last videotape which surfaced in April, which showed him in full face, arrogantly discussing his aims and showing, you know, the latest picture of himself. Some are saying that hubris could have led to the eventual pinpointing of where he was.
The Jordanians, according to Henry Schuster, CNN producer, sources are saying that a key arrest that was made back this last month, May 21, led to this pinpointing of Zarqawi.
But clearly, the big aim of those who are trying to fight what is now and what has been for years in Iraq since 2003 a grueling counter- insurgency campaign. The aim is to split the insurgents, to try to bring the Iraqis out of the cold, into the fold (ph), if you like, and to try to deny the insurgency popular support.
But it's still a huge and long slog, a very difficult road ahead.
M. O'BRIEN: To the extent that his death creates a leadership vacuum, are there plenty of insurgent leaders, do you suppose, that could fill that void or is there something about Zarqawi which made him an unusual insurgent leader, an unusual terrorist?
AMANPOUR: Well, I think there's always something about the leader. That's whey they are the leader. There's something about Zarqawi, there's something about Osama bin Laden that instills in their followers this kind of slavish devotion. So the death of his, if you want, for want of a better word, this icon of terrorism, is important.
The question, though, is as many terrorism analysts have said over the last several years since 9/11, this is not a single unified, homogenous organization. This is a multi-headed hydra, which has shown that even though senior leaders have been killed and captured over the last several years since 9/11, that they still continue because they have still this pool of recruits.
They know that they're hunted. They know that they have only a limited amount of time in leadership. And therefore they have their lieutenant. So it's hard to tell at this point whether this is going to deal the fateful blow to the Zarqawi movement, which is al Qaeda in Iraq, or not. Most people think it will not deal a fatal blow. But they do believe that it is important, an important psychological event.
And I must say, the fact that it's coming right now is very important because this is a crucial time for Iraq. It's really sink or swim now. Is Iraq going to descent into full scale civil war? Will it continue at this low level, very violent civil war that is going on right now? Will it break up into its three different ethnic factions? And will this insurgency succeed?
This is an important moment now because it's now or never to try to stop this and try to reverse this tide.
M. O'BRIEN: Christiane Amanpour in London, we'll be back with you in a little bit. Thank you -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: So we're waiting this morning to hear word from the White House, the reaction to the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Also, we're expecting a military briefing with some details on exactly what happened just a handful of kilometers outside of Baquba that resulted in the death of the most wanted man in Iraq.
We've got reporters and analysis this morning from Baghdad. Also from the Pentagon, from the White House, in Paris, in London.
A special edition of AMERCIAN MORNING continues right after this short break. Stay with us.
M. O'BRIEN: The most wanted terrorist in Iraq, Abu Musab al- Zarqawi, is dead following a U.S. airstrike. Happened about 19-1/2 hours ago, we are told. This occurred after about a two-week hunt in the general vicinity of Baquba and a safe house, ultimately, where Zarqawi and seven aides were found and killed in that U.S. airstrike.
The intelligence coming from Iraqi residents and perhaps some Iraqis who were part of the Abu Musab al-Zarqawi organization, al Qaeda, in Iraq.
Joining us now on the line from Brisbane, Australia is Michael Ware with "Time" magazine, about to join CNN as a correspondent. He'll be in Baghdad for us before too long.
Michael, you have spent a lot of time reporting on the insurgency. First of all, just give us a sense. Are you surprised, given all of the near misses and reports of his demise that turned out not to play out, are you surprised they finally got him? MICHAEL WARE, JOURNALIST: Well, look, Zarqawi has been a formidable foe. I mean, I've spoken to the men who hunt him, and one thing they say is that they always have regard for what they call his trade craft, his ability to evade and to hide. He has been very successful at that.
Yet, nonetheless, it has only been a matter of time. Intelligence slowly had to be pieced together to point to something strong against him, and finally it has.
Zarqawi has been playing a dangerous game. Unlike Osama bin Laden, another significant al Qaeda leader, Zarqawi was a man in the field, leading from the front, so he was always at risk of great exposure, and it finally caught up with him.
M. O'BRIEN: It's interesting you should say that, Michael, about his trade craft, how good he was at hiding, and yet what we're looking at right now on TV is video that was released in April, which a lot of people would have said was kind of a bit of hubris, a lot of arrogance there, as he was showing off and talking the terror talk and firing weapons in the desert. Had he become too arrogant, perhaps?
WARE: Well, there certainly is great debate, even among the jihad community itself, amongst the affiliated hard-line groups, about his ego and about was is charismatic -- does he take it too far. So, that's always been perhaps his Achilles' heel, his desire to step out of himself, perhaps a bit too much.
But, I mean, it's been a double-edged sword for him. Whilst dangerous, that's also been one of his greatest strengthens. It's allowed him to play to his constituency, to show then that, yes, I'm out there, I'm in the field. I'm taunting the Americans. But, as I said, as a matter of calculation, eventually this all had to catch up with him at some point. Either he had to trip up or he had to be betrayed somewhere down the line.
M. O'BRIEN: Give us a sense, then, the insurgency, the homegrown insurgency in Iraq, certainly exists apart from Zarqawi in many respects. How does this impact the army, the troops on the ground, day to day?
WARE: Well, that's a good question, because you must bear in mind that Zarqawi's organization, whilst it was responsible for the most high profile and horrific attacks that always captured the headlines, the vast majority of the daily attacks that are just grinding away at U.S. and Iraqi forces, the roadside bombs, the ambushes, the mortars, the rockets, that comes from the homegrown Iraqi insurgency, drawn from the ranks of Saddam's former military and intelligence apparatus, and local Iraqi Islamists.
So in terms of the vast majority of the insurgency, this may in fact embolden them as they feel that they're now becoming stronger within the insurgency because Zarqawi always challenged their authority and perhaps they now feel that they can stand up and make their mark.
But that may yet play well for America, too.
M. O'BRIEN: What do you mean by that?
WARE: Well, it seems this part of the insurgency, the former military officers, Iraq's brand of a West Pointer, if you will, who in many ways were allied with the U.S. military in the Eighties, in the Iran-Iraq War, that the U.S. military intelligence has been attempting to reach out to for the past 18 months, initially with the assistance of Jordanian intelligence -- I mean, these men are fighting what they consider among themselves a military fight for political purpose. They've only been fighting to get to the negotiating table.
Zarqawi stood in the way of that on ideological grounds, so this may allow the dialogue that's slowly developed between the American military and this nationalist insurgency to perhaps now slowly prosper.
M. O'BRIEN: I think a lot of our viewers, Michael, would be surprised to hear you talk about these terrorists ultimately wanting to go to a negotiating table. Do you think that's really a viable prospect?
WARE: Absolutely. I mean, there is more than one war that is being fought in Iraq right now. I mean, you have this civil unrest, which is akin to a civil war, which is one sect against another. You have a showdown between American might and Iranian might, with its puppets and allies in the country. Then you've also got a homegrown war, a war where the men fighting it see themselves as liberators, fighting to evict the foreign occupier. And then the smallest of these wars, yet the most lethal, was Zarqawi's terrorist war, which just saw Iraq as one part of a global holy war.
But in fact there have been many, many wars that are being fought by many different participants for many reasons, and the American military has conducted dialogue with various elements of these fighting groups.
M. O'BRIEN: Is it possible, Michael, that there will be some sort of backlash within the insurgency in an attempt to rise -- to bring the level of violence to a higher crescendo in the wake of this?
WARE: Well, they may try to use it that way. I suspect that it will, for the time being, at least, disrupt the hard-line al Qaeda Islamist element. They'll need to fall back, regroup and reconfigure. The test now will be to see who or what steps are in their place.
One thing we've noticed over the last year is that while initially Zarqawi's al Qaeda group was dominated by foreigners, these men have slowly, through the attrition of war, been captured or killed. While some still remain, we've seen an Iraqification (ph) of Zarqawi's al Qaeda as Iraqis have risen up the ranks. We'll now see if these men step forward or if they chose to move perhaps more towards the nationalist fight and adopt different kinds of means, as opposed to the suicide bombings plunged into queues of civilians lining up for gasoline or into marketplaces. M. O'BRIEN: Michael, give us -- as I look through the list of atrocities and crimes that are linked to Zarqawi and his organization, it's a pretty amazing list, and you have to wonder if perhaps too much credit is given to him and his organization, because as I look at that list, I am seeing him unable to fire a machine gun in the desert without some help from an aide.
WARE: Listen, I remember back in the summer of 2003, in the early months of the occupation, I was there when Zarqawi declared his arrival in the war with the bombing of the Jordanian embassy. That was the first kind of event of that size and significance that had taken place.
He then followed that up with the bombing of the United Nations and countless other sites since. We've now seen suicide bombings, something that was unknown in Iraq in any kind of conflict, become a daily phenomenon. I mean, we've seen Zarqawi's organization on one day in the capital city alone launch 11 suicide bombers.
So, his role in the number of attacks -- I mean, we're averaging 70 or 80 attacks a day on coalition troops -- his men are responsible for only a small fraction of those, but in terms of the inspiration and spreading the terror, you cannot underestimate his impact. His impact has been beyond the deeds that his men have done, despite how many they claimed rightly or wrongly.
M. O'BRIEN: All right, let me ask you kind of a hard hypothetical here for a moment. If Zarqawi had not risen to such heights after the invasion by the United States -- in other words, if he hadn't played his part in instigating the insurgency, how would the insurgency have played out? How would the violence have played out? Would it have been significantly different than what we are seeing?
WARE: I think it would have had a markedly different flavor, certainly in aspects of it. I mean, we wouldn't have seen that third tier of war, that al Qaeda holy war, certainly not to the degree that Zarqawi took it.
I mean, remember, we saw that intercepted letter from Zarqawi to Osama bin Laden back in early 2004. I mean, that was essentially Zarqawi sending Osama a business plan, saying here is this platform. It's the one we've been waiting for. This is how I plan to use it. Support me, let me make the jihad here, where it's never existed before.
And, in fact, in that letter Zarqawi criticized the local Iraqi insurgency and said I am going to instill in them a true sense of jihad. Now, this was before Zarqawi even enjoined al Qaeda. Before Iraq he was a marginal player. He turned Iraq into his own and he did that by adding his particularly sinister element to the war, which I think wouldn't have developed without him, and I think we would have seen the Ba'athists and the former Iraqi military of Saddam's era play a much greater role, and I think this battle would have evolved in a different way.
M. O'BRIEN: Michael Ware, formerly of "Time" magazine, joining us from Brisbane. Thank you very much, Michael -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi killed along with several of his aides, we are told, following a U.S. airstrike. There are reports in fact that they are still clearing the area where the strike happened and there could be more dead in that attack.
Tips and intelligence, in fact, we're told from senior members of Zarqawi's own staff, membership of his own organization, led the coalition forces to him.
Let's go right to Henry Schuster. He's a senior producer for CNN's investigative unit. He's live for us in Atlanta.
Henry, good morning.
First, give me a sense of the relationship between Osama bin Laden and al-Zarqawi. We've just heard from Michael Ware a moment ago that it was really Iraq that kind of solidified and raised the stakes for Zarqawi.
HENRY SCHUSTER, CNN: It was. There may or may not have been some relationship previously in Afghanistan between Osama bin Laden and his group and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, but if there was, it was a marginal one. It really was Iraq that brought it too the fore.
Michael mentioned that letter that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi sent to Osama bin Laden, which was captured by the United States. In that letter, basically Zarqawi said we will support you if you support us, and what he outlined was a plan really for civil war. He said we're going to go after the Shiites in Iraq. Remember, the Shiites had been the -- had been suppressed under Saddam Hussein's regime, but they form more than 60 percent of the population.
And Zarqawi laid it out then, and he essentially followed that plan. He attacked high value, very emotional targets amongst the Shiite community. He did that for the past several years. He was brilliant in using al Qaeda techniques that he brought. By al Qaeda techniques, I mean not just the high profile suicide bombings. The videotaping, the Internet postings, all the technology of terrorism, to get himself and his group -- really to capture the world's attention. And it succeeded.
What happened was, in October 2004, again, in a very public letter and a public posting on his Web site, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi said basically to Osama bin Laden, "I'm yours." And two months later, Osama bin Laden responded and said, "Yes, you are." And he said that Zarqawi was his emir, his prince of al Qaeda in Iraq. And that gave Zarqawi prestige.
It's not clear which man needed the other more, though, Soledad, because there were some tensions between them. On the one hand, Zarqawi was the man of action committing these bloody atrocities. On the other hand, bin Laden was the man who was out there being sort of the spiritual godfather, if you will, to this entire jihadi movement. Laying his hands on Zarqawi gave Zarqawi credibility and Zarqawi's actions gave bin Laden some credibility when bin Laden himself seemed incapable of carrying out any other terrorist attacks.
S. O'BRIEN: It sounds like you're describing a little bit of a marriage made in hell, so to speak.
Let me ask you abut what Christiane was mentioning just a few moments ago for us. The timing, so important. We had the announcement just today, finally, of the cabinet positions, the minister of defense and the interior minister. And so I'm curious to know the affect on the morale not only of regular Iraqi citizens, but also the Iraqi leadership and also the insurgency. What has this one thing, the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, done to all three of those groups?
SCHUSTER: Well, I think Michael Ware's analysis was brilliant. I think this is going to remove some impediments.
We talked, for example, to a tribal leader who used to live in al-Anbar Province, who is now living in Amman, Jordan, and he was essentially displaced by Zarqawi. He was afraid to go back. He feared for his life. And he said, basically, Zarqawi is doing for my people what I can't do.
This killing of Zarqawi is going to free up some of these tribal sheiks to reassert their power, and these tribal sheiks, while they say they're members of the insurgency, they're also ready in some ways to talk to the Americans.
This man, for example, made this incredible statement to me. He said, after saying that everybody in al-Anbar, which is where Ramadi is, are insurgents. He said, then, but it's better to be humiliated by the Americans than to be praised by the Iranians. And by the Iranians, he meant the Sunni controlled government in Baghdad.
So, clearly there is an ambivalence there. There is a willingness, I think, to deal in one way. I mean, this is politics, but it's politics with bombs and machine guns sometimes, and I think this bargaining may take another step forward now that Zarqawi is gone.
S. O'BRIEN: Henry Schuster is a senior producer for CNN's investigative unit, in Atlanta for us.
Henry, thanks. We'll get back to you in just a little bit -- Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: The news was applauded when it was announced just a few hours ago. The incident occuring upwards of 20 hours ago. A U.S. airstrike killing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and seven associates about 30 miles northeast of Baghdad, near Baquba.
Among the people making that announcement in Baghdad a short time ago was the Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari; Mr. Zebari on the line with us now.
Mr. Zebari, this is a day to trumpet and praise the U.S. forces as well as the Iraqis who gave the intelligence in this case which led U.S. forces to this location.
HOSHYAR ZEBARI, IRAQI FOREIGN MIN.: Yes, indeed. It's a great day and a happy day for Iraq, for the Iraqi people, for our friends and the coalition forces. It is a triumph for all of us in this war against the most wanted terrorist, and this close cooperation in fact has led to his hideout and the airstrike was successful. We know for sure that the person was killed through fingerprints and some special videotapes of Zarqawi and his immediate associates.
This doesn't mean this is the end of violence or terrorism in Iraq, definitely, but it is a major blow to the al Qaeda organization and network in Iraq, which was headed by Zarqawi. And it will boost the morale of the Iraqi government, the people, especially we have a number of other plans, especially after naming the three security ministers for defense, interior and national security. Now we have a full cabinet to rise up and take the lead in improving security.
Also, there is a security plan by the coalition forces and the Iraqi forces to provide better security for Baghdad. Coming up also soon, a conference of national reconciliation in Iraq sponsored by the Arab League. All of these positive developments I think point to a positive move of the situation forward.
M. O'BRIEN: Mr. Zebari, just a few moments ago across the wires we learned that there was a bomb blast in eastern Baghdad, perhaps as many as a dozen dead and 28 injured. Do you know anything about that?
ZEBARI: This has unfortunately become routine. You know, the car bombs, the killing of innocent Iraqi civilians going about their daily business or daily lives. They have been targeted by the network of al Qaeda, elements of the Saddam Hussein regime and the terror network.
Yes, it's true. I can confirm that a bomb has gone off and has killed a number of innocent people. But as I said, actually, the killing of Zarqawi will definitely have a positive impact on the overall security situation.
M. O'BRIEN: But as if to underscore the point, the terrorists making a statement here in that bombing.
Are you concerned that perhaps in raising expectations among the Iraqi people, that this will strike a blow against the terrorists, that if the violence continues, that could undermine your credibility, the government's credibility?
ZEBARI: Well, the government definitely has many challenges, difficult challenges, and one of the key priorities for the new government is to manage security, to bring it to reasonable, acceptable standards. So, we have no high expectation that our enemies, enemies of the new Iraq, anti-democratic forces who have all joined forces with Zarqawi and al Qaeda, will do their best to stop this process.
But we are standing our ground. We are rising up to the challenge and the Iraqi government is determined to implement its program to improve security, especially in Baghdad.
M. O'BRIEN: We've been looking at some videotape, Mr. Minister, of this latest bombing. It appears that a police vehicle...
M. O'BRIEN: ... of some kind is involved in all of this. Can you tell us anything more about it?
ZEBARI: I'm sorry?
M. O'BRIEN: It appears a police vehicle is involved in some way in this. We've been reporting recently about that abduction in those bus terminals involving terrorist who had dressed up like police commandos. I don't know if this is in any way along those lines, but do you know anything more about this latest bombing?
ZEBARI: I really don't know, to be honest with you. But normally when a bomb goes off, the Iraqi police will be at the scene very shortly because of better communication, better training. But, honestly, I have no more details at this stage.
M. O'BRIEN: Final thought here. Do you know much more about the information, how the information came to the United States and Iraqi forces on the whereabouts of Zarqawi?
ZEBARI: Yes. Well, the United States has been following Zarqawi very closely through the intelligence that has been gathered over the last few years. And Zarqawi almost was kicked out from Anbar Province when the Iraqi public joined forces with their brothers and participated in the election, which was against his principles.
And he was kicked out of that province, moved his operation elsewhere, around Baghdad, and he has been under close surveillance by the American forces, by Iraqi intelligence. And what led to his arrest was a video that he released a while ago to show his victories, his achievements. That gave us many, many leads into his whereabouts or the location that he took that video.
Immediately after that, there was a clever military operation by the U.S. and Iraqi forces into that area. They captured some very valuable material, and through the cooperation of the Iraqi public, were tipped off, the coalition forces and the Iraqi government, his hideout was located, north Baquba, about eight miles, and the airstrike was successful. A suspicion (ph) bomb was dropped and, really, we are absolutely sure that the person who was targeted was Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden's representative in Iraq.
M. O'BRIEN: Hoshyar Zebari is the Iraqi foreign minister. Thank you very much for your time, sir -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: Let's get back to those new pictures we were showing you from eastern Baghdad. Can we show those picture?
This is a busy marketplace, the site of a bombing, a car bombing, we believe. The blast took place in eastern Baghdad. We're told from preliminary reports that 12 people are dead, 28 people injured.
Let's get right to John Vause. He's in Baghdad this morning.
John, anything more we know about this attack?
JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Soledad, our information that we're getting here from Iraqi police is that this may have in fact been a roadside bomb at this marketplace. It happened around 10:30 a.m. local time. This marketplace would have been busy at that time of day. Most Iraqis do their shopping at this kind of marketplace between nine in the morning and midday.
It happened in the same area where an Iraqi police patrol came under attack as well, also by a roadside bomb. We understand two policemen were killed, eight others were wounded in that particular attack. So they happened in fairly close proximity, both in location and in time to one another.
Now, the timing of this, obviously, everyone is thinking is this part of some kind of up-tick in violence because Zarqawi has been killed by the U.S. forces here. We just don't know. This happened at 10:30. The news that Zarqawi had been killed came out a few hours after that. But, of course, he was killed 6:00 last night. So it's all a little bit murky right now about precisely what's happened.
But as the foreign minister did say, these kinds of attacks just are sadly routine here, especially in Baghdad -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: There are reports that there have been several failed attempts over the last 10 days to hone in and kill Zarqawi. Do we know any details about those attempts? I mean, clearly, U.S. forces and it looks as if Iraqi intelligence, or maybe even Jordanian intelligence, finally really getting hot on his trail in the last final days.
VAUSE: Well, the only thing we can talk about here in general terms is that the U.S. and Iraqi forces have been chasing Zarqawi for some time. They believe that over a period of months they had been getting closer and closer and closer.
That video which Zarqawi released in April of this year, some thought that it was some kind of reckless, overconfident move by Zarqawi. Others analyzed it as being a last desperate throw by Zarqawi to try and inspire supporters, that kind of thing. But it appears by all accounts that it was that video, which was released in April, was one of the keys to leading U.S. and Iraqi forces to that safe house just north of Baquba last night, where that airstrike was launched, killing him and his seven aides -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: John Vause is in Baghdad for us this morning. John, thanks for information on both of those fronts.
We're expecting to hear from Major General Bill Caldwell of the multinational force in Iraq. He's going to make a statement on the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. We're expecting that at 7:10 a.m. Eastern time, so in about an hour and 10 minutes or so. We're going to cover that live, obviously, and hopefully it will answer many of the questions that we have this morning about what exactly happened, what exactly led to the death, the killing, of the most wanted man in Iraq.
We've got to take a short break. We're back in just a moment.
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