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CNN BREAKING NEWS
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi Confirmed Dead; U.S. Military Holds Press Briefing
Aired June 8, 2006 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: The 8:00 a.m. Eastern hour of AMERICAN MORNING begins with some breaking news this morning.
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al Qaeda's leader in Iraq, is dead. He was killed in a coalition air strike near Baquba, which is just north of Iraq.
CNN's Barbara Starr telling us from the Pentagon this morning that U.S. Special Forces troops were on the ground in Baquba. They had been tracking Zarqawi's spiritual leader, who ended up leading them right to the al Qaeda leader. That spiritual leader was among those who were killed in the bombing.
Welcome back, everybody.
I'm Soledad O'Brien.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Miles O'Brien.
A special edition of AMERICAN MORNING, obviously, this morning.
In just a few moments, we expect to have a briefing from one of the generals on the ground there in Iraq, who will give us further information and sort of shed a little bit more light on how this military operation went down.
As soon as it happens, we'll bring it to you live.
We've seen some pictures, we believe, of the scene, rubble, at least, at least in the vicinity of this so-called safe house about 30 miles northeast of Baghdad where Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, his spiritual adviser and at least six other high ranking aides were having a meeting.
It's possible what we're seeing here, though, according to some reports we're getting in, might be so-called collateral damage. That might be a house that might have been in the immediate vicinity, not the specific house where this meeting took place.
Regardless of that, you can assume the scene at the place where Zarqawi and his aides were meeting is very similar. At least two 500- pound precision bombs dropped on this site, acting on intelligence information from Iraqis, Iraqis who might have been a part of Zarqawi's organization, and possibly a Jordanian who was arrested just a couple of weeks ago and might have offered some key information as to the whereabouts of Zarqawi, who, of course, a 39-year-old of Jordanian descent.
So, this is potentially a very significant change in the tone of the insurgency. As the U.S. ambassador to Iraq described him, he's the godfather or was the godfather of sectarian violence.
Does this end the insurgency?
Of course, the insurgency is nothing monolithic at all. There are many groups that are upset with the current power structure there, either within the Iraqis or certainly with the U.S. occupation of Iraq. And so that insurgency will continue.
The question is how will it be affected by the loss of such a significant player.
For more on that we turn now to CNN's John Vause, who has been in Baghdad this morning following all of this.
And we neglected to point out, a very key announcement for the government, as well, the naming of an interior and defense minister.
So lots of developments to watch here -- John, let's -- why don't we start with what we know about what happened to Abu Musab al- Zarqawi.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: OK, Miles.
Let's just go back to some of that video that we've been seeing this morning from the rubble from around this safe house near the City of Baquba, north of Baghdad.
What we are now being told by the U.S. military, these houses are about half a kilometer -- that would be about a third of a mile -- from where two 500-pounds were dropped in this killing of Zarqawi.
So if you look at the rubble, you can get an idea of just how much impact would have been on the house where Zarqawi and his spiritual adviser and six others were around 6:00 last night Baghdad time. Quite extensive damage there.
We are being told by the U.S. military and by the Iraqi government here that they received intelligence from within Zarqawi's own organization; also, tip-offs from just Iraqi civilians.
Also, the Iraqi foreign minister saying that they received a lot of information from a video which Zarqawi himself put out on the Internet back in April. It showed Zarqawi firing automatic weapons and pointing at maps, that kind of thing. The Iraqi minister not giving us precisely what those tip-offs or those clues were from that video, but saying that provided some vital information.
We also heard from the prime minister today, saying that there was an attempt at killing Zarqawi about 10 days ago. Zarqawi obviously got away. But this time there was no getting away, especially if you look at the destruction of those houses in the vicinity of where that safe house was. Obviously, they made sure, by dropping two 500-pound bombs, guided precision bombs, on this house, they were obviously making sure that no one would get out of that house alive. Quite extensive damage there -- Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: John Vause in Baghdad.
Thanks very much -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: Let's get to Senator Joe Biden.
Senator Joseph Biden, of course, has been very vocal about Iraq, where he has been a visitor many times.
Senator Biden, nice to see you.
Thanks for talking with us.
Let's first just get your reaction...
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DW), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Good to see you, Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: Thank you very much.
Al-Zarqawi is killed.
What's your reaction?
BIDEN: Good news. There's a special place in hell reserved for him. It shows that our military was able to pull off a very sophisticated operation. So in that sense, this is all good news.
S. O'BRIEN: You're on the Foreign Relations Committee. The last time we spoke, we spoke about dividing up Iraq. You said, listen, you know what? Sectarian violence, let's just cut it into pieces.
Does what's happened today make you change your mind about that?
BIDEN: Unfortunately, no. As your colleague, Miles, was just saying, there are -- there are basically three places where we have real problems.
One, were the jihadists, the outside folks, the radicals led by Zarqawi.
The other were the former Saddamists, the 300,000 members of the military that disbanded but kept their weapons. And a significant portion of them are Sunnis and they are part of the -- they are the major part of the insurgency. And they were not run-by Zarqawi.
And the third part are the militias that you've been reporting on, Soledad, that have been roaming the country, beheading people themselves; in fact, shooting people randomly; death squads within the police forces. You have this guy al-Sadr, who is -- has his Mahdi militia. There's these militias.
And so I don't think they're going to be affected very much at all by Zarqawi leaving. He did not control any of those people. That's going to be...
S. O'BRIEN: Yes, but...
BIDEN: ... the Herculean task of this new government.
S. O'BRIEN: Yes, I mean, and you're right, I mean tacitly he did not have direct control.
But isn't there this sort of bigger message sent, which is he apparently was turned in by his own people, who -- seems to send a message that killing Iraqis is not OK and that you will be betrayed by your own...
S. O'BRIEN: ... by your own people, potentially, if this continues?
Isn't there a bigger message, even if he didn't necessarily control, obviously, we know, all of the different insurgent groups?
BIDEN: Well, I hope so, Soledad. But I don't think you're going to find anybody in the Sunni area turning in any Sunni for killing Shias. I don't think you're going to see anybody in the Shia area controlled by al-Sadr turning in anyone who is a Shia who is out, part of a death squad, killing Sunnis. They're very different things.
What Zarqawi did, he killed everybody indiscriminately. He killed Sunnis, Shia. He was trying to foment the civil war, which he got going. And so what he would do, he would kill Sunnis and that would -- they would get blamed on the Shia. Then he'd kill Shia. And then he'd kill Kurds. He killed anybody that got -- anybody at all.
And so there's a very different thing here, unfortunately.
Now, I hope I'm wrong. I hope this has a catalytic impact on the violence. But I predict to you that two weeks from now, you're going to be showing people being ripped off of buses and beheaded still. I think you're going to be seeing -- every morning you're still going to see 10 to 50 people found with their -- with their arms chained behind their backs and shot in the head.
I hope I'm wrong about that.
S. O'BRIEN: The...
BIDEN: But they're not deaths attributed to Zarqawi.
S. O'BRIEN: The other big story of the day that's happened not -- not necessarily surprisingly, at the same time -- is the government finally naming the two nominees to these two key posts --
S. O'BRIEN: ... the ministry of defense -- the interior ministry.
You don't sound like you're encouraged, as some people are, by that step.
BIDEN: Well, I think that's very positive. I think that's a very positive step. Look, there are now, Soledad, 215,000 Iraqis in unfortunate, a total of 400,000 people in uniform in the -- in the country of Iraq. And the question is can the local government control them so all of the people of Iraq trust them?
That's the hardest job these guys are going to have. And the first necessary step of that is having non-sectarian leaders of the interior ministry, which are the police; non-sectarian leaders of the army. And that's going to be a giant job and we should be helping them in every way to do that.
But this is a long haul. You've got to get the Sunnis to buy into a unity government. I don't think you do that unless you give them a bigger piece of the pie economically and until you give all the three regions a little more breathing room in terms of control of their local laws on marriage and on education and those things.
But I hope I'm wrong about that. But I predict in a month from now, you're going to be reporting nothing considerably dissimilar to what you reported last month.
S. O'BRIEN: You said two weeks ago, just a moment ago, sir -- we're just going to keep you to your word and see how it's going then.
Joe Biden joining us.
It's nice to see you, Senator.
S. O'BRIEN: Thanks for talking with us.
BIDEN: I hope I'm wrong.
I hope I'm wrong.
Thank you very much.
S. O'BRIEN: We're looking at pictures of President Bush.
He's at the National Prayer Breakfast this morning and we've been obviously following up on his -- this is National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast, I should say -- following up on his remarks that he made earlier.
He's being introduced and we're monitoring this picture and we'll listen in on what the president has to say and back to the U.S. when we get a chance -- Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: Yes, the minute he says something relevant to what we're talking about, we will go to it.
We're watching that one, as well.
We're also watching a briefing which is set to be underway coming out of Baghdad. One of the generals on the ground there will give us, we hope, some additional detail on exactly how this unfolded militarily.
Let's get a little bit more insight on that now from CNN's Barbara Starr -- Barbara, I suspect they might be a little bit reluctant to say an awful lot about how they pulled this off for fear of tipping their hand a little bit on some techniques.
But some of this is not in the realm of secret.
What do we know so far, then, about how this very precise, coordinated attack occurred?
BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Miles, some details are beginning to come out, the broad brush strokes, if you will.
What we know now is that it's been over the last two weeks or so that U.S. intelligence was getting more and more information about the potential location of Zarqawi.
We are told that they had a number of tips, human intelligence, if you will, coming from the people in Baquba and around that city, that they believed Zarqawi was near there. One intelligence official saying it was all coming to a climax over the last two, two-and-a-half weeks or so.
So, inside the U.S. government, inside the intelligence and military circles, there certainly was some very close hold effort underway and a lot of optimism that they might get him.
We are told, also, though, that as they were beginning to track people going to this safe house where this meeting of Al Qaeda in Iraq operatives was taking place, that they were really tracking Zarqawi's spiritual adviser, a man named Sheik Abd-Al-Rahman; that they had some pretty clear information; that they believed that man was going to be at this house, but that if he was there, Zarqawi himself would not be far behind. For some reason, they had a reason to believe the two men might be traveling together or be near each other.
So, clearly, over the last couple of weeks, some tips coming from Iraqis. But, also, earlier this morning, we had a very precise indication in a press release that it was interrogation, if you will, that it was information, tips and intelligence from Iraqi senior leaders in Zarqawi's network.
Now, those words are very crucial. That tells us what we had long been led to believe, that Zarqawi was no longer able to rely on foreign fighters, jihadists that he had brought into Iraq for this insurgency. So many of them had either been captured or killed.
He had turned to the next -- his next circle of potential supporters, and that was Iraqis.
So, clearly, some people were either captured or brought in information, Iraqis who may not have had the same loyalty as Zarqawi's original associates -- Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: Let's talk about this Abdul Rahman, the spiritual adviser. He, in and of himself, would be a justified military target.
Is it your understanding, or at least your sense of things, that they were tracking him, waiting for him to get into close proximity to Zarqawi?
STARR: I think that's a pretty safe conclusion, because what we are told is that there were U.S. Special Forces on the ground in Baquba. We don't know what distance from this house, but the expression in the military and the intelligence community is eyes on. There were eyes on this target.
So, they had some sort of information that we don't know what it is just yet, believing that Rahman was there. And if he was there, Zarqawi would either be with him or very close by.
And, to be very clear, Miles, we simply don't have the information yet. It's not clear whether the Bush administration, whether the intelligence community will provide that to us. But our sources are telling us that that's how it unfolded -- eyes on the target, knowing that both men might be in very close proximity to each other. This al Qaeda meeting unfolding and very quickly moving in with bombs on target.
M. O'BRIEN: We have some reports that the pictures we're seeing right now, Barbara, might, in fact, be so-called collateral damage -- in other words, not exactly precisely the location, the meeting place where Zarqawi and his seven aides were.
Have you gotten any specific word from your sources there as to the possibility of civilian deaths as a result of this attack?
STARR: We have not, Miles.
But in looking at this video, I will say that I, myself, find it somewhat remarkable if this was exactly the safe house, because I don't think they would let Iraqi civilians go to the location where they believe they killed Zarqawi. I'm quite sure there's still military intelligence operatives on site, going through there, trying to recover whatever information they can.
These pictures, tragically, are more indicative of what we have seen over the months in Iraq when bombs are dropped on a house where there are civilians. And those who survive go to the location, trying to pull out whatever they can, possibly trying to find the remains of their relatives for a burial very quickly under Islamic custom. We simply don't know. But these pictures have seen -- young Iraqis, seeing Iraqi civilians, would be more consistent with that scenario than -- as you see here, civilians again -- than the scenario that this was exactly the safe house where the U.S. military dropped two 500-pound precision bombs.
M. O'BRIEN: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon.
Thanks -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: In Washington, D.C. now, the president is attending the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast. That's just down the road from the White House.
And the White House is where we find Ed Henry.
Ed was sitting in and listening in as the president spoke just moments ago -- well, now minutes ago -- at the Rose -- in the Rose Garden -- Ed, good morning.
ED HENRY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad.
You know, just before the president spoke in the Rose Garden, I could see into the Oval Office through a window. The president was at his desk beaming. He was gesturing in a rather animated fashion. He had top staffers all gathered around him, from the chief of staff on down.
I saw aides like Dan Bartlett laughing and beaming. And it's a much different mood for this White House, you can see immediately.
They've been through a lot. They have a president who's been in freefall in the polls, mostly because of the issue of Iraq. This is obviously some good news the president wanted to pounce on. He practically marched out to the Rose Garden, as he declared that the death of al-Zarqawi offers Iraq a chance to "turn the tide."
And he also called this a severe blow to al Qaeda and praised coalition forces, saying that they had delivered justice to the most wanted terrorist in Iraq.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now Zarqawi has met his end and this violent man will never murder again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: But the president did also measure some of that victorious language with a dose of reality, saying that the violence in Iraq will continue. He also said there will be tough days ahead and that he still needs the patience of the American people -- Soledad. S. O'BRIEN: Let me ask you another question about something else the president said.
He went on, Ed, to praise the troops and praise the Iraqis, as well. And then he said, you know, we're going to be -- he sort of laid out the next couple of days. And he said there are going to be discussions about deploying of resources.
What exactly does that mean?
HENRY: It was a tantalizing moment there. He obviously didn't go into much detail.
But to fill that out a bit, we know the president is leaving early, in fact, this afternoon, to go to Camp David. He'll be meeting tomorrow with the president of Denmark.
And then he announced in the Rose Garden that on Monday he'll be having a big meeting with his national security team at Camp David and noted that the new Iraqi ambassador to the United States would be joining that meeting at some point and that there would be some talks.
Obviously, that is going to get some people wondering whether, if some of the violence does dissipate, whether or not we will be re- deploying U.S. troops.
The president has said over and over again, that's going to be a decision made by commanders on the ground, not politicians here in Washington. But he certainly seemed to leave a little bit of a hint there that this good news could go a long way down the road.
But I think, obviously, his other words cautioning about not getting ahead of our ourselves and cautioning that the violence will continue and that there will be tough days ahead, also suggests that he's not going to rush into deploying U.S. troops and getting them back home just yet -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: Ed Henry at the White House for us.
Ed, thank you.
HENRY: Thank you.
S. O'BRIEN: Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: CNN's Aneesh Raman has spent many, many months covering the story for us from Baghdad.
He happens to be in Boston this morning -- and, Aneesh, once again, we would like to get your sense of perspective of trying to give people a handle on how Abu Musab al-Zarqawi fits into the larger insurgency and its multi-headedness. It's not just about Zarqawi.
ANEESH RAMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is not. And, in fact, the vast majority of attacks that take place among the insurgency in Iraq are done by homegrown terrorists that are there. As we try and gauge what the impact of this will be, it will likely, in my opinion, be in the political realm, what sort of practical blow this will deal to the sustained insurgency. We'll have to wait to see. It is unlikely it will deal a fatal blow to the violence there.
But this is a huge moment for Iraq's government, a moment that has momentum, perhaps for the first time, at this level, since the elections, the first elections that took place in January last year.
As we mentioned, not only the announcement that Zarqawi has been killed -- and you see there Iraq's new prime minister alongside the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. But also that the two key security posts of interior and defense have been filled.
Iraq's government is now complete and those posts, which were seen as essentially the most important posts aside from the prime minister, have been agreed upon.
So this gives the Iraqi government a chance to rebuild confidence that I saw erode over the year that I was there, as they bickered over who would be in what position.
It is not, Miles, a moment that will do anything on its own. It will, at the basic level, rebuild some of that psychological confidence, but it will be incumbent and up to this Iraqi government to seize upon it and try and form a unity among themselves, that is being Iraqi, beyond being Shia, Sunni or questioned, that could then translate to the Iraqi people.
But they now have a result. Up until now, politically speaking, the Iraqi government really only said steps were moving forward by virtue of them moving forward, the formation itself, was there success.
This is now a result in the security realm, outside of the formation of a government, they can point to, to the Iraqi people. But the Iraqi people are a battered people. They suffered decades under Saddam. They have suffered under this insurgency. They will wait to see what happens next -- Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: Waiting to see. We know the names of the interior and defense minister -- Jawad Bolani, Abdul-Qader Jassim.
I don't know if you have any further insights.
Of course, just naming a person is one thing. What they do in that post is an entirely different matter.
RAMAN: It is. The interior ministry, we know, has gone to a Shiite. The defense ministry has gone to a Sunni. The previous interior minister, Bayan Jaber, had widely been linked -- at least reportedly, it was never admitted, but understood by Iraqis to be linked to one of the largest Shia militias in Iraq.
We heard from Senator Biden earlier that the insurgency is one thing, Shia militias are another.
Zarqawi really was the sole face of the insurgency. To be rid of him is a huge blow to Iraq's insurgency. But one of the impending problems -- and there are many that this government faces -- are the Shia militias. A step toward dealing with that, it seems, has been to replace Jaber as the interior minister, someone who was widely seen as controversial, as bringing down the credibility of the Iraqi government.
So how this interior minister is able to really eradicate Iraq's security forces of the militia influence and establish a security force that sees itself as Iraqi, as not as its ethnic components -- Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: You know, the term unity government is used a lot. And you mentioned an attempt here, at least, to put Shiites and Sunnis together in a government.
Is that -- is it happening in a way that is truly successful?
And are the Iraqi people responding to it in any way?
RAMAN: Well, I think we're a far ways from knowing the answer to that.
The government still has huge issues that are unresolved. The constitution still can be debated. The regional sovereignty of the Kurdish areas, the Shia areas, the Sunni areas, has not been resolved. The Sunnis want a central command in Iraq because they have the least natural resources in their areas. The Kurds, of course, want more autonomy in the north. The Shia have some -- suggested the same.
So unity government was a good first step. It brought everyone to the table. But it is merely a label unless that can carry through to the actions that the government takes.
Prime Minister Maliki has huge issues that will have to be dealt with by this government and whether that unity can withstand the differences that are likely to re-emerge is what the big test will be politically for this government.
Now, this gives them the momentum, as I said, and they have to seize upon this in order to rebuild that confidence that has been lost among the Iraqi people -- Miles.
M. O'BRIEN: Aneesh Raman, good insights.
Thank you very much.
We'll be back with you in a little bit -- Soledad.
S. O'BRIEN: Let's show you a quick shot of a podium in Baghdad.
We're expecting a briefing from Major General Bill Caldwell of the multinational force in Iraq. Of course, we are hoping to get more detail about exactly what happened in the sky and on the ground in the location when al-Zarqawi was killed.
First, though, let's get right to Christiane Amanpour -- Christiane, we only have about a minute-and-a-half before they bring this briefing -- we think. That's what we've been told.
Christiane, of course, is CNN's chief international correspondent.
You know the story that we've been hearing, of course, from Aneesh. The government's big move today would have been the main story had al-Zarqawi not been killed.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right.
And for all the reasons Aneesh has been talking about it's vital that the Iraqi government be able to turn the corner from what is a factional, religious and ethnic based situation there right now and be able to make it a government of the people, of all the ethnic groups and to be able to make Iraqis really have a contract with the political process, rather than with their individual militias.
I think we're looking forward very much to hearing from the American military commanders in Baghdad about the actual details of the operation to get Zarqawi. It's vital that they got him. It's not the end of the insurgency, by any stretch of the imagination, but deals a significant psychological blow and probably, to an extent, at least in the short-term, an operational curve ball, anyway.
I think what's also really interesting is the part that the Jordanians have played in this. We've heard from several of our correspondents talking about some of the help that Jordan gave. Of course, Jordan highly motivated. Not only is it on the border of Iraq and has so much of the exodus coming out of Iraq right now, but Jordan was one of the first targets of Zarqawi's people during the summer of 2003, right after the invasion of Iraq.
Its embassy was blown up. People were killed. And then, just last year, Zarqawi exported his terrorism and attacked those three hotels in Amman, killing somewhere around 60 people.
So Jordan highly motivated to get this man and to get at least some element of this insurgency, particularly the one that affects Jordan, out of the picture.
But it's going to be a long slog, as everybody said. And I've really been struck today by President Bush, Prime Minister Blair, all the leaders from the leaders of the military on the ground, how while reporting the good news that Zarqawi has been killed, have been much less sort of triumphant than they have in the past about some of these announcements they have made, cautioning that this is not the end, that it's a long, hard slog and a long, difficult road ahead.
S. O'BRIEN: Away from -- we're expecting this briefing from General Caldwell out of Baghdad this morning.
And, again, we're showing you some shots. Apparently they've got some audio difficulties and they're sort of working on that.
So let me ask you another question.
I think it's very intriguing, Christiane -- and maybe we'll hear more about this in this briefing -- that it looks as if al-Zarqawi's own leadership, the people underneath him, are actually the people who turned him in.
AMANPOUR: Well, yes. And that's what Barbara Starr was reporting, having listened carefully to the initial press statements from Baghdad, that they're saying that, at least in the initial press statements, that it was Iraqi leadership within the Zarqawi movement that may have provided the crucial tip-off.
And, of course, that is important. if I remember correctly, it was the Iraqis around Saddam Hussein who finally provided the tip-off to him being captured all those many months after he was deposed. Of course, that's important, because in any counter-insurgency struggle, which this is now, and it's been going on for nearly three years. It's a grueling counter-insurgency struggle against an enemy who is infinitely adaptable. Every time they come up with something and the Americans or the British come up with a counter-measure, these people come up with a counter counter-measure.
So crucial to deny them the support and the security and the hideouts amongst the public. And if it is true that Iraqis within his leadership are those who provided the crucial tip-off, well, that's an important development.
S. O'BRIEN: All right, Christiane, as we wait a few minutes.
They keep saying to us imminently, this briefing, the military briefing, which should, hopefully, answer a lot of the questions that we have about the details, which I am sure are going to be just fascinating.
Of course, imminently can mean in a moment or it can mean in a really long moment.
So we'll continue to talk -- oh, they're giving us the two minute warning.
So we'll continue to talk for a couple of minutes while we wait for General Caldwell to come out and let us know some of the details.
Big picture impact -- as you point out, leaders, whether you're talking about the Iraqi leaders, the British prime minister, the president of the United States -- have learned from mistakes of the past, taking a very measured tone this time around. This is not a victory dance. This is not shouting from the rooftops. This is the good work of the soldiers and there's a lot more work to be done.
AMANPOUR: Yes. And an important step in the process. But, of course, you know, we've sat through, in the past, over the past several years, time after time, the leadership of the United States and Britain and others. Each time there's been sort of a turning point, whether it was the capture of Saddam Hussein, whether it was the transfer of sovereignty from the occupation to the Iraqis back in July of 2004, whether it was the constitution or the elections, and then the next elections, and the referendum.
Each one has been touted as THE turning point that could bring down the level of violence and it simply hasn't happened. The insurgents have been, as I say, adaptable. They've continued the struggle. And not only that, now we have insurgency on the Sunni side and death squads, revenge squads, vigilante militarism and militia-ism on the Shiite side.
So it's a majorly sort of twirling, whirling cauldron of violence that doesn't immediately have a solution to it.
The big solution obviously it's going to be the political one, because this new government in Iraq must, must convince its people somehow that the future for them is with the political contract and not with the militias and not with seeking their own individual revenge and security.
But people there, you know, have seen the security situation collapse over the last several years. Many simply don't know who to turn to for security. And, hence, this vacuum creates the perfect opportunity for these political parties, supported by their militias, to take matters into their own hands.
And that is contributing to the dissolution of the possibility of a united Iraq and a united political system. And that's what this new government is going to have to reverse.
S. O'BRIEN: Christiane, as you are talking, we're looking at pictures, live pictures out of Baghdad this morning.
We're waiting to hear from General -- Major General Bill Caldwell of the multinational force in Iraq.
We're expecting him any moment to come out and brief us and get some of the details, really, on what exactly happened that led to the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Let me ask you another question, though, Christiane, before I let you go.
Joe Biden -- he says, you know what? All those things you've just mentioned, they're big problems. They're not going to be solved. You can't do it, divide the country up into three pieces and be done with it. Stop trying to find this unity government. It's not possible.
What do you think of that plan?
AMANPOUR: Well, certainly analysts have, you know, and Senator Biden has written that and it's been coauthored and he's written that in various newspapers and that is his position now. There are many who actually agree with that. And there are equally many who say that that is not the right way to go.
From what I have been able to learn from Iraqis on the ground, they believe that they're one country. They don't necessarily believe that they are destined to be three factions battling it out for, you know, survival as individual governments and nations in that particular part of the world.
And many people around that part of the Middle East are very concerned that that not happen, because it simply, you know, is a bad precedent, they believe.
So, I think that there's a huge amount of opposition to the notion of allowing Iraq to split into three factional parts and I think that, on the other hand, it is a Herculean task to bring them back from the brink and to try to knit this society back together again. And it will be a lot -- a lot of it will depend on this government.
You know, the top U.S. commanders, as General Casey has told me, and has told other people, that insurgencies of this nature can last up to 11 or so years. This is just three years old.
So there's potentially many -- much more life in this insurgency and, you know, finally, U.S. commanders from -- really, from the bottom up, commanders who are on the ground and have had to live with this for the last several years, are coming up with their counter- insurgency methods, their counter-insurgency tactics, realizing, you know, what they have to do on the ground and are trying to put that into practice as much as possible.
But it's very difficult. I mean, look, today, you have the announcement of the killing of Zarqawi and you have a massive -- now the bomb in a Baghdad market area, which has killed at least a dozen or more people and wounded scores. So this punctuates the difficulty that lie ahead.
S. O'BRIEN: Christiane Amanpour is CNN's chief international correspondent. Christiane, I'm guessing that eminently, as we're wait for those pictures, is not going to be a two minute warning, but more a many minute warning. We're waiting to hear, of course, from Major General Bill Caldwell. Christiane, thanks, and we'll continue to monitor this. We'll hold this picture up as we continue on this morning.
M. O'BRIEN: We're also watching Brussels, Belgium. The Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is there, meeting with NATO officials. And we expect to hear from him. We suspect that's going to occur at about 9:00 Eastern Time. And if I am looking at this correctly, I believe the general has reached the podium. Let's listen in.
Apparently we don't have any audio right now, so let's -- we'll try to get that straightened out. In the meantime, we're going to shift our attention for just a moment while we try to work out that audio program -- problem -- to Michael Ware, who was the Baghdad bureau chief for quite some time for "Time" magazine before joining CNN as a correspondent.
And, Michael, I've been reading some of your work this morning in "Time," and looking at the history of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and the way he intersected terror in Afghanistan, made his way out of Afghanistan into Iran and then ultimately into Iraq. He has been a player for quite some time, though not necessarily a household name here in the United States until fairly recently.
MICHAEL WARE, FMR. BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Yes, Zarqawi has been around within the jihad community since the 1990s. But the irony is, until Iraq, he was a marginal player. It's he who went to Iraq and said this is the platform where we can give birth to a new generation of our jihadis. And it's Iraq that made Zarqawi the international jihadi superfigure that he is. So he benefited enormously from Iraq, and he created a whole new generation of al Qaeda.
So this is the first test of that generation. How did they respond? how did they replenish? How did they move on? I think we're soon going to see Iraqis taking much more control of al Qaeda in Iraq, something that many have called for for a long time.
M. O'BRIEN: You know, let's -- going back to talking about Zarqawi here -- and this is a ninth grade dropout, by all accounts a thug and a bully, who, somewhere along the way, was able to memorize the Koran in its entirety while spending some time in jail. There's a lot of contradictions in this character.
WARE: Absolutely. I mean, people said that he was a petty criminal. And it wasn't until he was put in jail in Jordan that he found Islam. However, we saw him pick up a Jordanian militant group, take it over. It was essentially given to him, and he then eventually turned it into what we now see as al Qaeda in Iraq. But even his old mentor, who is still in those Jordanian prisons, has been telling him for years to tone it back, pull back the reins on some of these more horrific tactics. It's doing more damage than good.
We then started seeing the old guard of al Qaeda, Osama and al- Zawahiri, saying the same things. So he's divided al Qaeda and the broader jihad community. And he's taken it to a whole new more brutal level. Well, now let's see what happens to those who have been inspired by Zarqawi.
M. O'BRIEN: To what extent was he inspired by Osama bin Laden? As I understand it, he didn't meet him until the year 2000, and he didn't at that time, in a formal sense, join al Qaeda. As a matter of fact, he had his own operation running. Was there some sort of bad blood between the two that ultimately they -- and ultimately they linked over the subject of Iraq, or what happened?
WARE: Yes, there's conflicting reports about this, but one thing that's very clear is that in Afghanistan, Zarqawi was operating his own Jordanian-based organization out of the western city of Herat. In terms of al Qaeda itself, pure al Qaeda, he was a marginal player. He was not formally a member of al Qaeda. It wasn't until he went to Iraq and said here is the place that we make ourselves, and if you won't do it with me, I'll do it on my own.
Eventually he became such an Internet superstar among the jihad faithful, among that constituency, that al Qaeda was forced to a decision point: do we take this guy on or do we embrace him and bring him in? So in October 2004, that's what they did. They brought him into al Qaeda. He essentially joined the chairman of directors. And what many suspect is that he was looking to take over ultimately. But he represented a whole new form of al Qaeda.
M. O'BRIEN: In the sense that, what, that he was more of a hands on leader? How was he a new form?
WARE: Well, he was certainly much more of a frontline leader than, say, Osama bin Laden. Zarqawi was there at the battlefront. Whether he was pulling triggers is one question. There's many stories that he, in fact, has done so. But there he is marshaling the troops and sending people out, very much involved there in the battle, unlike others.
But also, he believed much more in the war against the Shia. Now, this is not something that Osama bin Laden himself has pushed near so far. He believes in this civil war in Iraq. He believes in making it spread. It's like Catholic and Protestant in Iraq. He really set out to inflame that.
The other thing was his methods. He didn't mind if a busload of schoolchildren were killed, as long as he still achieved the end that he wanted, blowing up a few police officers or hitting an American convoy. For him civilian casualties were just part of the price. They would go to heaven with the rest of the martyrs, that will be OK. That was very divisive, not just among the Iraqi insurgency, but within al Qaeda itself.
M. O'BRIEN: Michael, we -- I'm showing you a picture now. We have no audio whatsoever, unfortunately, from this briefing. Nobody is getting it. And we're watching it. What they just showed and just took off the easel there was a picture of what appeared to be Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, deceased in the wake of this attack. We're going to try to see if we can get this technical problem worked out with the pool figure coming in. There you see the tape that came just a few moments ago.
That -- I guess, Michael, putting that picture out for the world is important, but at this point, al Qaeda in Iraq has admitted on their own Web site that Zarqawi has died. So there's no debating that at this point.
WARE: Well, from what I've just been told, there's been at least two postings from his organization confirming his death, yet bowing to continue with the plan. So it does seem that not only is the U.S. military extremely confident -- and we've been down this road before, both with Zarqawi and previously with the killing of Saddam's two sons, Uday and Qusay. Identification is very important.
This is a war of perception. Zarqawi knew that. He always played that masterfully. So the U.S. military in Iraq would have been very aware of that, and would make sure that it's on very sure ground before making this announcement. So, in many ways, it does seem that the debate over his identity has been removed, certainly at this early stage.
M. O'BRIEN: All right. Well, of course, it has been 22 hours since the strike. Michael Ware in Brisbane. We'll be back with you in a bit.
We're going to take a break. We're going to try to get those technical difficulties ironed out. We'll get you that briefing as soon as we can. Back with more of our coverage of the death, the killing, of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq. Stay with us.
M. O'BRIEN: And now, live to Baghdad, with audio. Major General Bill Caldwell.
QUESTION: ... more detail about how exactly he died, how many air strikes there were, and if Zarqawi died instantly or if he died later. Just a little more detail on the operation itself.
MAJ. GEN. BILL CALDWELL, MULTI-NATIONAL FORCE - IRAQ: Sure. If you would, technical crew, would you assist me in bringing up the video? I'd like to show you a video of the airstrike on the building that occurred last night at 6:15.
As you observe the target here -- there was a flight of two F-16s from the United States Air Force.
They have now been told where the target is. They've identified it. The lead aircraft is going to engage it here momentarily with a 500-pound bomb on the target.
At this point, they're making assessment as to whether or not the target had been fully engaged and whether they need to re-engage it one more time.
The decision has been made now by the commander, the pilot in charge up there, that they are going to do a re-attack. And you'll see the second 500-pound bomb go in shortly.
OK. Thank you.
Following this strike, Iraqi security forces, and specifically Iraqi police, responded to that location. They were the first ones to arrive on the scene. That was followed very shortly thereafter by elements of the Multinational Force-North, specifically troopers from the 4th Infantry Division, which were a part of the 101st Airborne Air Assault Division up there.
They then moved to the location, swept through the site, and identified six persons that had been killed in that strike at that time.
Site exploitation occurred. Zarqawi's body was then removed, brought back to a secure location. By visual identification it was established that that probably was him. But they went ahead and brought him back, did further examination of his body, found more scars and tattoos consistent with what had been reported and what we knew about him. They then did a fingerprint identification, and that came back at about 0330 this morning as positively identified as Zarqawi having been killed.
QUESTION: But there was no firefight? Just it was just two airstrikes?
CALDWELL: It was an Air Force strike that eliminated that target. And there was no further direct-fire engagement at that point.
QUESTION: Who were the other victims? Can you tell us anything about them and their identities?
CALDWELL: At this point, we have positively identified two of the six which I can talk about; the other four we are still trying to make identification on.
It's been about 20 hours since the strike occurred, and they are trying to do the identification on the other four at this time.
QUESTION: Are they all adult males or...
CALDWELL: No. There's a woman in the group, and a younger person, a child.
QUESTION: How old is (INAUDIBLE)?
CALDWELL: We have absolutely no idea.
QUESTION: (SPEAKING IN ARABIC)
CALDWELL: I tell you, the coalition forces are very fortunate in this country in that we have a lot of nations that are very actively involved in supporting the effort here to establish a free and prosperous Iraq.
There is no question that other countries are providing information and are assisting in our fight on the global war on terrorism. And it would be inappropriate for me to discuss the very specifics of those relationships, but Jordan is an extremely important friend and partner and a good friend of Iraq's as they fight this global war on terror.
QUESTION (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Have you found any documents or intelligence information? Did you find anything that can help you to eliminate terrorism?
CALDWELL: We did. We, in fact, were very fortunate. We did find some information. I think what everybody needs to understand is the strike last night did not occur in a 24-hour period. It truly was a very long, painstaking, deliberate exploitation of intelligence, information- gathering, human sources, electronic, signal intelligence that was done over a period of time -- many, many weeks -- that led us last night to that target.
Last night, as a result of striking that target and having confirmation early in the evening that we had, in fact, killed Zarqawi, we then conducted 17 simultaneous raids within Baghdad proper and just on the outskirts, utilizing both Iraqi security forces and coalition forces.
And in those 17 raids last night, a tremendous amount of information and intelligence was collected and is presently being exploited and utilized for further use. I mean, it was a treasure trove; no question.
And we had identified other targets we had previously not gone after to allow us to continue staying focused on getting Zarqawi. But now that we have got him, it allows us now to go after all these other targets we had been using in order to establish his movements, his patterns, his habits, and where we could find him like we did last night.
But it was about 17 targets that we immediately launched and executed literally within hours after our initial identification of him.
QUESTION: Can you classify in any way the information? Could you classify in any way the treasure trove that you found? Did you find phone books, computers?
And these 17 targets, were they all in Baghdad?
And did you have any doubt at all that this was Zarqawi?
CALDWELL: We had absolutely no doubt whatsoever that Zarqawi was in the house. It was 100 percent confirmation.
QUESTION: Were you going for Zarqawi? We've heard that you may have been going for some other people and there was luck involved. Or did you know, "We're going for Zarqawi, he's going to be there"? And then if you could classify what they found?
CALDWELL: We knew exactly who was there. We knew it was Zarqawi. And that was the deliberate target that we went to get. We also knew from having watched the movements of Al-Rahman that he was there too in that house.
The information that we were able to gather over the last 24 hours is currently being used and exploited, and will influence future operations. So it would be, kind of, inappropriate at this point to talk about future ops for operational reasons.
QUESTION (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): (INAUDIBLE) to prove that this is Zarqawi, especially since he has been declared killed many times before? Is there going to be a DNA testing? And when will this be done?
CALDWELL: That's a great question. And we, in fact, are doing a DNA analysis. And we would hope within 48 hours to have that information back to us from now.
The question was -- DNA analysis is obviously the most reliable means to establish the identity of a person. Although we did do a fingerprint 100 percent identification match, we are also doing an DNA analysis. And we should have that in about 48 hours from now -- is the goal to have that back here to us.
QUESTION: Can you tell us a little bit more about Al-Rahman and how long you've been following him and, you know, exactly what his relationship to Zarqawi was?
CALDWELL: He was the spiritual adviser to Zarqawi. He was brought to our attention by somebody from within the network of Zarqawi's. For operational reasons, I probably can't specify exactly when.
But we had cleared up evidence about a month and a half ago that allowed us to start necking down to the point where we're able to prosecute the action last night against that safe house.
QUESTION: Is he Iraqi?
QUESTION: Is Al-Rahman Iraqi?
CALDWELL: I'd have to get his nationality. He is not, though. But I need to confirm for you his nationality.
QUESTION (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): You said in the summary that the last tape that you listened to really pushed you to take this step. What he did, what Zarqawi did in the past three years, was that not enough encouragement and incentive to do what you have done? Or did you need to wait three or four years to do it?
CALDWELL: If I can make sure I have your question correct, you're asking why did we not take out Zarqawi before now?
QUESTION (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): You said in the summary that by listening to the last tape that Zarqawi published, this is the incentive you had to take this action. Didn't everything that he did in the past three years -- wasn't it enough incentive for you to take such a step?
CALDWELL: Last night was the first time that we have had definitive, unquestionable information as to exactly where he was located, knowing that we could strike that target without causing collateral damage to other Iraqi civilians and personnel in the area.
And so, therefore, the decision was made to strike last night. QUESTION (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): You have mentioned in your briefing that the killing of Zarqawi will not stop the violence in Iraq. And he has many bases of operation in Iraq. Will you take any specific measures? Is there any coordination to fight these attacks?
CALDWELL: There is. In fact, the prime minister himself has developed a plan, which he calls the Baghdad security plan, that I know that he's been talking about in the press and he's planing to execute.
He's asked coalition forces to work in support of his efforts. We're going to be tightly working with the Iraqi security forces within Baghdad as the prime minister moves forward with that.
Obviously, today, now that he has designated and had verified by the Council of Representatives a minister for national security, a minister for defense and a minister for interior -- I mean, the coalition forces are just so excited for the government of Iraq and what can happen here in the future by having that leadership in place, firmly established and able to make those kind of decisions about exactly what they want to do.
QUESTION: I was wondering if you can tell me a little bit more about the unit that was actually doing the tracking of Rahman, and, then eventually, Zarqawi.
There's all kinds of descriptions that there were thrown out that they were a special operations forces unit. Is there anything else you can say about who exactly was involved with that process?
CALDWELL: What I can tell you is this: We have a policy we don't talk about when special operating forces are involved in an operation.
But this was truly a coalition effort along with the Iraqi forces. This was not one particular unit. If you just stop to think about it, it was an Air Force element that dropped that bomb -- or bombs -- on the house. It was Iraqi police that responded first time on the scene. It was Multinational Division-North that had the quick reaction force that came in to that location in case there was anybody still alive or was going to continue to fight or anything else at that location.
To get to that point took tremendous amounts of intelligence- gathering and collection and analysis that was done not only by coalition forces, but with the Iraqi elements and a lot of our nations that are helping us fight this global war on terror.
QUESTION: The president said in his speech that it was special operations forces that tracked these targets to the location that was bombed. Is that the case?
CALDWELL: If the president of the United States said it was, then I'm sure it was.
(LAUGHTER) CALDWELL: Obviously, there are special operating forces, as the president stated, that were involved in this operation.
QUESTION: Working on the assumption that most of the insurgency has nothing to do with al Qaeda, is this going to substantially change the U.S. coalition force's strategy, counterinsurgency strategy? Are we going to see a change in the coming weeks, or is this not really going to affect matters?
CALDWELL: What this will affect is -- Zarqawi indiscriminately would kill Iraqi civilians. He had no compunction at all about taking the life of innocent people on the streets. His whole intent was to incite violence between the Shiites and Sunnis.
In his most recent volumes that he just published here in the last few weeks, he specifically told them, "Sunnis, rise up against the Shiites before you even go after the coalition forces."
So to us in the coalition force, we realized Zarqawi was somebody that had to be dealt with because he was killing innocent Iraqi civilians. He wasn't interested in going after coalition forces by what he said himself. He was just interested in killing people.
And so to us, yes, it was very critical that we eliminated Zarqawi. There is no question the entire idea of the Iraqis being able to take a much greater lead is going to occur as we continue forth from here.
The prime minister continually talks about the need for unity, for national reconciliation. I mean, he has said it time and time again over the last few weeks.
He now has a minister of defense, a minister of interior and a minister of national security that can, in fact, lead those efforts for him now to help him achieve the vision he has for the people of Iraq.
CALDWELL: He's not had that up till now. He now has a fully emplaced cabinet.
I mean, the prime minister now has a very unique opportunity to see a lot of his ideas put into action. And those of us here in the coalition force are ready and want to support him and his ministers as they move forward with their ideas and vision for the people of Iraq.
STAFF: We have time for one more question.
QUESTION: There's been this background that we've heard about splits within the militants and between the Iraqis and foreign fighters. And I'm wondering if any of that led to the intelligence you got today.
Because you've referred a few times to intelligence from Zarqawi's network and I'm wondering on that, were those people who were under interrogation, in custody, or people who came forward from Zarqawi's network to describe him? CALDWELL: It would be inappropriate for me to talk about where the information actually came from and who provided it to the intelligence sources.
QUESTION: How about the overall -- whether it was affected by these splits between militant groups?
CALDWELL: I actually haven't talked to any of the personnel that have come forward with the information, so I wouldn't really know what the motivation was or what may have driven some of that to have been made available to us.
Let me just take one more here then.
QUESTION: I've been told that Arab talk shows and TV networks are discussing a lot of conspiracy theories that somehow this was timed to coincide with the naming of the ministers and that the Americans knew where to find him earlier and they didn't do so and so forth.
Can you say something to dispel these theories a little bit more about the development and the timing and how this came about?
CALDWELL: I would only wish we were that good to have timed everything between what the government of Iraq was doing and what coalition forces were doing and what Iraqi security forces were doing. That's quite a compliment that we would have that capability this early in the stage of a new government forming like this, which clearly has some challenges ahead of it but also some great opportunities.
No, there was absolutely nothing at all that was in collusion with the idea that we would wait until the announcement of the ministers till that we would go after Zarqawi.
Zarqawi has been a primary target that we have continually looked for. Obviously, we've always gone after the mid-level, kind of, grade leadership in the al Qaeda network because we realize if we can eliminate it there, that that's going to cause the higher-level structure to tumble.
And Zarqawi's whereabouts and his movements and things came about through, obviously, Sheik Al-Rahman through various means of other intelligence over the last couple of weeks that allowed us to take that step.
But, no, there was nothing at all in terms of timing between those two events.
QUESTION: (SPEAKING IN ARABIC)
CALDWELL: Well, first of all, let me say that obviously when coalition forces, in coordination with Iraqi security forces, made the decision last night to go after that target, we had long before that begun to think through, "OK, if there is no Zarqawi, who would be next?" CALDWELL: Because we would, obviously, want to start trying to identify where that person is that would try to rise up and move into the power position there that Zarqawi was occupying.
Probably Abu al-Masari (ph), if you had to pick somebody, would be the person that is going to try to occupy the position that Zarqawi had. He's the most logical one out there, as you look at that structure and how they operate that will probably try to move into there.
And that's something that the coalition forces, along with the Iraqi government, have been already talking about and anticipating could possibly occur.
As far as the body itself in terms of the explosion of the bomb, I mean, the pictures we provided to you were, obviously -- we had wiped off a lot of the blood and other debris because there was not a need to portray it in any kind of -- dehumanizing his body. The intent was to show you that he, in fact, had died in that explosion.
But there are far worse graphic pictures -- that are very inappropriate, we felt, to share with anybody -- that were the result of the immediate strike.
QUESTION: General, just two questions.
One, could you talk a little bit about Abu al-Masari (ph) and his background?
And also, I just want to be clear: When the Iraqi security forces arrived right after the bomb went off, Zarqawi was dead when they got there, is that correct?
CALDWELL: That is correct. He was dead when we arrived there.
Al-Masari (ph) -- Egyptian Arab. He's not an Iraqi; born and raised in Egypt. He was trained in Afghanistan -- went through his training there.
We know he has been involved with IEDs -- making here in Iraq. Probably came here around 2002 and to Iraq. Probably actually helped to establish maybe the first al Qaeda cell that existed in the Baghdad area.
And there's obviously a lot more, because we've been looking at him fairly closely for a while about him.
But key thing that we realize is he's not an Iraqi. You know, he's from a different country. He's come into Iraq, and he's been out killing innocent Iraqi civilians. He's not the kind of person that the government of Iraq, the Iraqi people themselves nor the coalition forces care to have existing in this country.
All right. Well, listen, I want to thank everybody very much. We are extremely excited about the fact that the government in Iraq has announced and has had today confirmed the ministry's of the last three, both in Defense, Interior and National Security, which gives them that opportunity to truly take a step forward. And then it was complemented by the fact that a terrorist that was out there killing Iraqi civilians today no longer exists.
Thank you very much.
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