Al-Zarqawi Possibly Killed in Mosul Raid

U.S. officials hope they have killed al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in a raid on a Mosul compound.

Al-Zarqawi May Be Among Dead in Iraq Fight (AP)

U.S. forces sealed off a house in the northern city of Mosul where eight suspected al-Qaida members died in a gunfight — some by their own hand to avoid capture. A U.S. official said Sunday that efforts were under way to determine if terror leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was among the dead.

[…]

In Washington, a U.S. official said the identities of the terror suspects killed in the Saturday raid was unknown. Asked if they could include al-Zarqawi, the official replied: “There are efforts under way to determine if he was killed.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.

On Saturday, police Brig. Gen. Said Ahmed al-Jubouri said the raid was launched after a tip that top al-Qaida operatives, possibly including al-Zarqawi, were in the house in the northeastern part of the city. During the intense gunbattle that followed, three insurgents detonated explosives and killed themselves to avoid capture, Iraqi officials said. Eleven Americans were wounded, the U.S. military said. Such intense resistance often suggests an attempt to defend a high-value target.

American soldiers controlled the site Sunday, and residents said helicopters flew over the area throughout the day. Some residents said the tight security was reminiscent of the July 2003 operation in which Saddam Hussein’s sons, Odai and Qusai, were killed in Mosul.

The elusive al-Zarqawi has narrowly escaped capture in the past. U.S. forces said they nearly caught him in a February 2005 raid that recovered his computer. In May, the group said he was wounded in fighting and was taken out of the country for treatment. Within days, it reported he had returned — though there was never any independent confirmation that he was wounded.

This sounds more hopeful than factual at the moment. His death at the hands of American forces would be a much needed morale boost on our side, although it may not ultimately matter.

Update (11/21, 1131): It looks like reports of Zarquawi’s demise are, once again, premature. Evan Kohlmann reports,

An Al-Qaida supporter who claims to know the identities of those inside the destroyed house in Mosul has emphatically denied that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was present in the structure or was killed during the raid. According to the source, a total of eight individuals were hiding in the residence at the time, including seven male insurgents and one of their wives. This group had not yet been involved in significant insurgent operations, but rather was preparing to carry out a “terrorist martyrdom mission.” Furthermore, according to the source, the raid that led to the deaths of the would-be “suicide squad” was executed exclusively by U.S. military forces–and not Iraqi soldiers or policemen.

Rusty Shackleford has word that the White House is also
denying the earlier reports.

FILED UNDER: Iraq War, Terrorism, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Just Me says:

    It would be nice, but I won’t get my hopes up, there have been too many reports of his capture and death, in the past. I will wait for the official announcement, not the “might”s and “maybe”s.

  2. Fonglw says:

    If they don’t get Zaqawi, I am sure they will get a bunch of his “top lieutenants”–something that seems to happen whenever Bush’s poll numbers are sagging.

  3. McGehee says:

    If they don’t get Zaqawi, I am sure they will get a bunch of his “top lieutenants”—something that seems to happen whenever Bush’s poll numbers are sagging.

    You mean, it’ll be “just another plastic turkey moment”?