BAGHDAD ø 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
"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.