Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born, al-Qaida-linked terror leader in Iraq who had become almost as infamous as Osama bin-Laden, is dead.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says al-Zarqawi was killed in a U.S. air raid north of Baghdad last evening along with seven aides. The room erupted in cheers when the announcement was made at a news conference.
Al-Zarqawi led a bloody campaign of suicide bombings, kidnappings and hostage beheadings that made him one of the most wanted men in Iraq. He is believed to have personally beheaded at least two American hostages.
General George Casey, the top U.S. general in Iraq, says al-Zarqawi's body has been identified by fingerprints and facial recognition.
The Jordanian-born militant had a $25 million bounty on his head, courtesy of the U.S. government.
Al-Qaida in Iraq says it will continue its "holy war." It comes in a Web site statement that also confirmed the death of al-Zarqawi.
The statement refers to al-Zarqawi as a martyr and says "The death of our leaders is life for us." It goes on to say that the death "will only increase our persistence in continuing holy war so that the word of God will be supreme."
The statement was posted on a Web forum where al-Qaida in Iraq and other militants frequently post messages.
Islamic militant groups portray the deaths of their members in battle as happy news since it means they enter heaven as "martyrs."
The statement compared the death of al-Zarqawi to the death of Islam's prophet Muhammad in the seventh Century, after which Muslim armies continued their expansion. President Bush says coalition troops have dealt a severe blow to the al-Qaida terrorist network with the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Acting on tips from Iraqis, he says coalition troops delivered justice to the most-wanted terrorist in Iraq. He calls it a "remarkable achievement" and says years of perseverance were rewarded.
In remarks from the White House, Bush congratulated the new Iraqi government and heaped praise on coalition and U.S. forces.
Bush says that with the death of al-Zarqawi, "the ideology of terror has lost one of its visible and aggressive leaders." But he warned that insurgents will likely carry on without their visible leader.
But he adds that it's an opportunity for Iraq's new government "to turn the tide in this struggle."