Captain’s Quarters links to an Adkronos International article stating Zarqawi may have been seriously wounded or perhaps killed during Operation Matador. The source is an Iraqi Colonel:
The Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is “serious injured, possibly dead” according to Colonel Fouad Hani Hassan, commander of the fifth division of the Iraqi armed forces, cited by ‘Elaph’, a popular website in the Arab world. Al-Zarqawi, considered al Qaeda’s leader in Iraq, is believed to have been injured in the major offensive US-led forces have been carrying out in the western Anbar province over the last few days.
I agree with Captain Ed, we need to wait until definitive proof is offered before celebrating Zarqawi’s demise.
Zarqawi has been reported to have been repeatedly slipping across the Syrian border, and US intelligence believes the Qaim region contains the backbone of al Qaeda’s infrastructure and organizational leadership:
Military officials think that foreign fighters have been using the region as a sanctuary on their way from the porous Syrian border to cities such as Mosul, Ramadi and Baghdad, where they have carried out kidnappings, assassinations and suicide bombings aimed at destabilizing Iraq’s nascent government.
Some U.S. commanders believe the area contains insurgent training camps and high-ranking members of the Iraq arm of the Al Qaeda terrorist network, including its leader, Abu Musab Zarqawi. As of early today, no camps or Al Qaeda leaders had been found.
Marine Lt. Gen. James Conway reports Zarqawi has been sighted in the area but he is not the focus; “It would be a welcome event to come across him or his body… in that region… But that’s not the purpose of the operation.”
While the status of Zarqawi remains uncertain, it is clear al Qaeda is not popular among some of the residents of Western Iraq. A woman, who was subjected to an accidental attack by US forces, none the less begs the Marines to enter New Ubaydi. It seems al Qaeda is conducting a draft to get the men of the city to fight:
Troops also said they fired on a taxicab Tuesday morning after it failed to stop at a checkpoint. However, the occupants apparently were civilians fleeing New Ubaydi. The driver was killed and a female passenger and her child were injured.
“We were just sick to death when that lady got out of the car with her baby,” said a Marine, who declined to identify himself.
Marines said another passenger, who was unhurt, told them that insurgents had taken hold of the town and were threatening to kill any men who did not fight the Americans. The woman urged the Marines to reenter New Ubaydi to fight the guerrillas, the troops said.
The people of Qaim are not enamored with al Qaeda’s methods as well, and this, not the sighting of Zarqawi, led to the current offensive [hat tip to Marlin]:
An Iraqi official said the offensive was triggered by local tribal leaders’ complaints that about 300 foreign fighters had overtaken the town and were attacking residents who didn’t offer them refuge.
“They said, `We are citizens of Qaim and we are now being attacked by non-Iraqi people coming from Syria. They are shelling us with mortars,'” Bruska Noori Shaways, the deputy Iraqi defense minister, said in an interview with Knight Ridder. “Until this time, they had never asked Iraqi or American forces to help them. It’s a good sign.”
Al Qaeda’s methods certainly aren’t winning the hearts and minds of the locals, and the requests by the tribal leaders in Qaim indicate the fracturing of al Qaeda from the sympathetic Sunni population continues. Americans won’t be the only ones celebrating when the area is rid of the stain of al Qaeda.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD's Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.