U.S. launches all-out hunt for Zarqarwi

Monday, June 21, 2004

BAGHDAD The U.S. military has launched an intensive campaign to kill Abu Mussib Al Zarqawi.

U.S. officials said Central Command has concluded Al Zarqawi has sought refuge in the Sunni city of Faluja, west of Baghdad. The officials said U.S. military assets have been monitoring neighborhoods in the city for Al Zarqawi and his aides.

Al Zarqawi has been termed the most lethal insurgent in Iraq. He has claimed responsibility for at least 25 suicide strikes against Iraqi and coalition targets in Baghdad and other cities. He was also believed to have carried out the suicide car bombing of an Iraqi military recruiting station in which 35 people were killed.

On Saturday, a U.S. military jet fired at least two missiles into a Faluja neighborhood in an attack on a suspected Al Zarqawi stronghold, Middle East Newsline reported. At least 18 people were killed and two houses were destroyed.

Officials did not say whether Al Zarqawi was one of the casualties. But they said the military believed that Al Zarqawi was in one of the buildings targeted.

"Coalition forces conducted a strike on a known Zarqawi network safe house in southwest Faluja," Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of coalition operations said on Saturday. "This operation employed precision weapons to target and destroy the safe house."

The missile strike was the first significant coalition attack in Faluja since early June. U.S. troops left the city last month as part of a deal that paved the way for the deployment of an Iraqi security force.

Officials said the military was conducting post-strike damage assessment from the missile strike in Faluja. They did not say whether or when the results would be announced.

In Paris, Al Zarqawi's key aide and toxin specialist was captured by French authorities after a search of nearly a year. The French Interior Ministry identified the detainee as Algerian national Said Aref, who was extradited to France from Syria last week.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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