June 7th, 2006 may become a day to remember in Iraq. After years of hunting, military forces were able to pinpoint the location of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al Qaeda terrorist leader of the Iraqi insurgency for the past three years. According to Gen George Casey, the 39 year old Jordanian was killed in a targeted airstrike at 6:15 pm. The most wanted man in Iraq and Jordan was meeting with other associates in a safe house outside of Baquba. CNN coverage of the joint press conference of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and the U.S. military commander in Iraq, reported the man with a $25,000,000 bounty on his head was killed with his religious adviser and seven other men.
“Tips and intelligence from Iraqi senior leaders from his network led forces to al-Zarqawi and some of his associates who were conducting a meeting approximately eight kilometers north of Baquba when the airstrike was launched,” Casey said. …”all of these operations are the result of a long, painstaking process where tips and intelligence are received, processed and checked out.”
This particular operation had been in the works for a couple of weeks.
Al-Maliki indicated that the strike on al-Zarqawi was the “result of cooperation” with ordinary Iraqis, saying that authorities many times have asked the citizenry to provide information. “We have been able to identify al-Zarqawi by fingerprint verification, facial recognition and known scars.”Casey said.
CNN reports that world reaction to the news is cautious. Regional experts and Iraqi officials are pleased with his removal and still realistic that the terrorist organization remains to regroup and continue their sectarian violence. His family is not sad that he has, in their view, become a martyr and gone to heaven.
The announcement of al-Zarqawi’s death was followed immediately by the Prime Minister’s nomination of three new ministers to the Council of Representatives. Approving all three, the council filled the vacant posts of Interior Minister with a Shiite, a Sunni Minister of Defense, and a Shiite for Minister of State for National Security. The positions have been empty for almost 3 weeks since the rest of the new Cabinet was decided. National and international opinions have expected the stablization of the country to depend heavily on these ministerial appointments being completed.
The timing of the two milestones may give the Iraqi’s a much needed opportunity for gaining ground in the long struggle to rebuild their country. If the insurgency is slowed long enough for the newly completed Cabinet to begin establishing more order and security, progress may become more than the Bush administration’s opinion. It will be a great day in America if Iraqi’s see this combination of events as the turning point to become a nation united against the insurgents. And an even better day for Iraq, to become a country with hope for the future.