Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has been killed in a bombing raid near Baqubah, Iraq, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said at a press conference in Baghdad on June 8. He died in a U.S. airstrike on the evening of June 7. U.S. and Iraqi officials said his body has been positively identified. His death will have a marked impact on all sides of the current conflict in Iraq, as well as the overall perception of the U.S. war against militant Islamists.
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of the al Qaeda in Iraq movement, was killed on the evening of June 7 in a U.S. airstrike against a suspected militant safe-house in Baqubah, Iraq, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said at a Baghdad press conference June 8, where he was joined by U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and U.S. Gen. George Casey. The details available — an airstrike and the recovery and identification of the body — suggest this was a targeted attack against al-Zarqawi, meaning coalition military forces likely had very specific intelligence regarding his location. It is likely that the $25 million price tag the U.S. placed on al-Zarqawi's head, as well as the desire to solidify political progress within the new government, made some Sunnis cooperate with the United States to locate al-Zarqawi. Al-Zarqawi's death gives the United States a needed psychological victory in the war on terrorism, both domestically and abroad, coming in the same time frame as the psychological blow of the situation in Somalia. Despite the fact that al-Zarqawi was allegedly replaced as the leader of the jihadist movement in April, the psychological impact of his death will touch not only the United States and the jihadists, but also factions in Iraq that continue to negotiate for a better position within the new government. Without effective leadership for the jihadists, the balance of power in Iraq changes. For the jihadists, the time in Iraq has become now or never, as it is clear that their operations could be compromised at any minute. For the negotiating Sunnis, it is possible that they no longer have the option of playing the "jihadist card" that has given them a better place at the negotiating table in past. And for the Shia, the death of al-Zarqawi offers an opportunity to rethink pending deals with the Sunnis. For the United States, this is a much-needed concrete victory, and though the jihadist war is far from over, the shifting momentum following the overthrow of Mogadishu by Islamist forces and the rising Taliban problems in Afghanistan could once again be stabilizing in the U.S. camp, and al-Zarqawi's death could give U.S. president George W. Bush a much-needed boost in the public opinion polls, broadening his options in the international arena.