Abu Musab al-Zarqawi lived for 52 minutes after a U.S. warplane bombed his hideout northeast of Baghdad, and he died of extensive internal injuries consistent with those caused by a bomb blast, the U.S. military said Monday.
Col. Steve Jones, command surgeon for Multinational Forces, said an autopsy concluded that al-Zarqawi died from serious injuries to his lungs in Wednesday’s airstrike. An FBI test positively identified al-Zarqawi’s remains.
Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Baghdad, said U.S. forces arrived about 28 minutes after a fighter jet bombed al-Zarqawi’s hideout outside Baqouba. Medics secured al-Zarqawi’s airway but his breathing was shallow and labored, and he expelled blood from his mouth.
“It was very evident he had extremely massive internal injuries,” Caldwell said.
Al-Zarqawi died 24 minutes after coalition forces arrived, he said.
Jones said the autopsy conducted Saturday showed that al-Zarqawi died from injuries to his lungs.
“Blast waves from the two bombs caused tearing, bruising of the lungs and bleeding,” he said. “There was no evidence of firearm injuries.”
The al-Qaida in Iraq leader also suffered head and facial wounds, bleeding in his ears and a fracture of his lower right leg.
Dozens detained or killed
Caldwell also said 140 military operations were carried out since al-Zarqawi’s death and 32 insurgents were killed and 178 detained. He said 11 raids were directly connected to a “treasure trove” of intelligence gleaned from raids since al-Zarqawi’s death.
“As far as the al-Qaida network, we are cautiously optimistic that we have been very successful thus far in the ongoing operations in last five days. We know this is not going to end the insurgency. it will take the people of Iraq to make that decision with their Iraqi security forces,” Caldwell said.
He said an F-16 dropped a 500-pound bomb on al-Zarqawi’s hideout at 6:12 p.m. Wednesday. A second bomb followed immediately after.
U.S. troops arrived at 6:40 p.m. and found Iraqi police at the site. He said a coalition medic treated al-Zarqawi, who lapsed in and out of consciousness.
“At 7:04 p.m. on 7 June, Zarqawi was dead,” Caldwell said.
He said al-Zarqawi’s spiritual adviser, Sheik Abdul-Rahman, was killed instantly in the airstrike.
Jones and a medical examiner who was not identified said al-Zarqawi had “no evidence of beating or any firearm injuries.”
“These autopsies were performed to make a definitive determination as to the cause of both Zarqawi’s and Rahman’s deaths,” Caldwell said. “The scientific facts provide irrefutable evidence regarding the deaths of terrorists will serve to counter speculation, misinformation and propaganda.”
An Iraqi man raised questions about al-Zarqawi’s death, telling AP Television News he saw U.S. soldiers after the airstrike beating an injured man resembling the dead terrorist until blood flowed from his nose.
Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, has dismissed that claim as “baloney.”
No decision about remains
Caldwell added that no decision had been made on what to do with the remains of al-Zarqawi and Rahman.
“Right now we’re still in discussions with the government of Iraq. They’re still currently under coalition control,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell said that two women and a young girl killed at the scene were turned over to Iraqi authorities as had the body of another man. None had been identified.
According to Caldwell, al-Zarqawi was not wearing an explosives vest. The Jordanian-born al-Qaida leader often claimed he wore one to prevent capture.
“He was wearing some black outfit. There is nothing that said he was wearing a suicide belt on,” Caldwell said.
He added that a timeline of events he had promised would be ready in the next few days. Because of the confusion over the sequence of events following the bombing, the military has promised to release a chronology.
At least one U.S. officer said American troops responded quickly, while a senior Iraqi official said Sunday that they may have arrived as much as an hour after the attack.
“After the national Iraqi police arrived to the scene and got the injured, got the dead sorted out. In an hour or so, I think, coalition forces have arrived to the scene also to help in the logistics of the operation afterward,” Iraqi national security adviser Mouwafak al-Rubaie told CNN.