US tracked down target after following his deputy

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the insurgent leader blamed for the slaughter of thousands in Iraq, was killed by two 500lb bombs dropped by a US fighter jet after he was tracked down to an isolated house in a date-palm grove north of Baghdad.

General George W Casey, the top American military commander in Iraq, said the air strike at 6.15 pm on Wednesday hit "a single dwelling in a wooded area surrounded by very dense palm forest".

US and Iraqi intelligence officials discovered Zarqawi's hideout after following his deputy Abu Abdul-Rahman to a meeting in a house near the city of Baquba, 40 miles north of Bahdad. It was the final act in what the US military described as a "painstaking" spying operation involving sources within Zarqawi's network of associates.

"This gentleman was key to our success in finding Zarqawi," said Maj-Gen William Caldwell. "He was a top lieutenant ... and was identified several weeks ago. We were able to start tracking him, monitoring his movements ... Last night, he went to meet [him] again at 6.15pm [2.15pm GMT] when the decision was made to go ahead and strike that target."

Maj-Gen Caldwell added: "What everyone 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, electronics, signal intelligence that was done over ... many weeks."

Two US Air Force F-16 fighter pilots flying a previously scheduled mission at "medium altitude" were given the target and orders to attack it, explained Lt-Gen Gary North, the senior air commander in the region. "We had 100 per cent assurance that Zarqawi was in the safe house," he said. The explosion of the laser-guided bombs killed Zarqawi and seven of his lieutenants. His body was later identified by fingerprint evidence and from known scars on his corpse. A statement from al-Qa'ida in Iraq, the movement he led, later confirmed he had been killed. The organisation's members vowed to continue the "holy war", saying: "We want to give you the joyous news of the martyrdom of the Mujahed Sheikh Abu Musab al-Zarqawi."

The US military showed a video of the strike that killed him, alongside two photographs of his body: Zarqawi's eyes shut; his nostrils filled with blood; with gashes to his forehead and cheek. The body of Abdul-Rahman was also identified.

President Bush said Zarqawi's death was "a severe blow to al-Qa'ida and it is a significant victory for the war on terror". But he added: "We have tough days ahead of us in Iraq."

In London, Tony Blair avoided triumphalism. Zarqawi's death was "very good news because a blow against al-Qa'ida in Iraq was a blow against al-Qa'ida everywhere," he said.

But he warned that there would be reprisals - and indeed there were. At least 31 people were killed in a spate of bomb attacks across Iraq yesterday. The deadliest blast saw a roadside bomb kill 13 people in a crowded market in the east of the country.

The death of Zarqawi is a boost to the new government of Nouri al-Maliki, which was able to appoint defence and interior ministers yesterday after months of wrangling. But the US government and US army, both of which have been battered by criticism, also wanted a share in the success. Mr Maliki had to share the podium at his press conference in Baghdad with General Casey.

News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
News
i100
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA powerful collection of reportage on Egypt’s cycle of awakening and relapse
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Residents of Derby Road in Southampton oppose filming of Channel 4 documentary Immigration Street in their community
tv
Sport
Scottish singer Susan Boyle will perform at the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony in Glasgow
commonwealth games
News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
News
Lane Del Rey performing on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
people... but none of them helped me get a record deal, insists Lana Del Rey
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Portfolio Analyst/ PMO

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Systems Analyst (Technical, UML, UI)

£30000 - £40000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Cost Reporting-MI Packs-Edinburgh-Bank-£350/day

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Cost Reporting Manager - MI Packs -...

Senior Private Client Solicitor - Gloucestershire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - We are makin...

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn