Al-Zarqawi said to survive airstrike By ROBERT BURNS, AP Military Writer
16 minutes ago
WASHINGTON - A mortally wounded Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, still alive after a U.S. airstrike on his hideout, mumbled briefly and attempted to "turn away off the stretcher" he had been placed on by Iraqi police, the U.S. military said Friday.
U.S. officials had said Thursday in announcing the attack that Zarqawi was dead when U.S. troops arrived on the scene.
Maj. Gen. Bill Caldwell, speaking to reporters at the Pentagon from his post in Baghdad, said he learned after getting briefings Friday that Zarqawi was alive when Iraqi police first arrived on the scene, but he died a short time later.
"We did in fact see him alive," Caldwell said. "He mumbled a little something but it was indistinguishable and it was very short."
Caldwell said U.S. forces have conducted many raids over the past two days based on intelligence gathered from the scene of Zarqawi's killing. He displayed several digital photographs taken from the results of one such raid, which found small arms, ammunition and other items hidden beneath the floor of a building in the Baghdad area.
He said one targeted individual, whom he did not identify, was killed in the latest raids and at least 25 were captured.
Asked whether Zarqawi was shot after U.S. ground troops arrived at the scene of the airstrike, Caldwell said he could not give a definitive answer based on what he had read in the latest official U.S. military report on the event. "I'll go back and specifically ask that," he said. "But no, there was nothing in the report that said he had received any wounds from some kind of weapons system like that."
Zarqawi's safehouse was destroyed by two 500-pound bombs launched from an Air Force F-16 on Wednesday evening.
Caldwell said the U.S. military was still compiling some details of the event, including the exact amount of time Zarqawi was alive after the attack. He said an initial analysis of Zarqawi's body had been done but he was not certain whether it constituted a full autopsy.
"I know that there was, quote, an autopsy done, but I'll go back and make sure it was performed by the certified kind of person that we're supposed to have so we can call it an autopsy and make sure I'm exactly correct before I tell you that," he said.
In an interview earlier Friday with Fox News Channel, Caldwell was more descriptive of Zarqawi's actions before he died.
"He was conscious initially, according to the U.S. forces that physically saw him," Caldwell told Fox. "He obviously had some kind of visual recognition of who they were because he attempted to roll off the stretcher, as I am told, and get away, realizing it was U.S. military."
Caldwell indicated that U.S. troops "went into the process to provide medical care to him" before Zarqawi expired. He did not elaborate on the medical assistance. He said U.S. officials are in discussions with Iraqi government officials about the disposition of Zarqawi's body.
The spokesman also provided a revised accounting of the dead. He said the six people killed in the airstrike included three women. On Thursday U.S. officials had said one woman and one child were among the dead. Caldwell said Friday the latest information available to him gave no indication that a child was killed.
The U.S. military earlier had displayed images of the battered face of al-Zarqawi and reported that he had been identified by fingerprints, tattoos and scars. Biological samples from his body also were delivered to an FBI crime laboratory in Virginia for DNA testing. The results were expected in three days.
Caldwell said Friday that authorities made a visual identification of al-Zarqawi upon arriving at the site of the airstrike.
"Zarqawi attempted to sort of turn away off the stretcher, everybody resecured him back onto the stretcher but he died almost immediately thereafter from the wounds he'd received from this airstrike," Caldwell said.
Caldwell said it was unclear whether Zarqawi was trying to get away as he made movement on the stretcher.
"We did in fact see him alive," Caldwell said. "There was some kind of movement he had on the stretcher and he did die shortly thereafter. But yes, it was confirmed by other than the Iraqi police that he was alive initially."
Al-Zarqawi, who had a $25 million bounty on his head, was killed at 6:15 p.m. Wednesday after an intense two-week hunt that U.S. officials said first led to the terror leader's spiritual adviser and then to him.
U.S. Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said at the time that the American airstrike targeted "an identified, isolated safe house." Also killed in the airstrike was Abu Abdul-Rahman al-Iraqi, the terrorist's spiritual consultant.