Details emerge surrounding Zarqawi’s death

By The Associated Press


The Associated Press

BAGHDAD, Iraq – A medic spent about 20 minutes trying to save Abu Musab al-Zarqawi even as blood ran from the terrorist’s mouth after the airstrike that mortally wounded him, the U.S. military said Monday.

But the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq was not wearing the suicide belt he vowed to use if American soldiers ever caught him.

Seeking to dispel allegations that al-Zarqawi was beaten or shot while in U.S. custody, Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said an autopsy performed Saturday proved the Jordanian-born militant died of “massive internal injuries” that were consistent with a blast caused by the two 500-pound bombs dropped on his hideout.

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“A coalition medic treated Zarqawi while he did lapse in and out of consciousness,” Caldwell said at a news conference in Baghdad. “The medic secured his airway, at which point Zarqawi expelled blood.” He said the medic “noted the breathing was shallow and labored.”

Col. Steve Jones, command surgeon for Multinational Forces, said DNA tests done by the FBI positively identified al-Zarqawi.

The cause of death was listed as “primary blast injury of the lung,” with blast waves from the two bombs causing bruising and bleeding of the organs. Al-Zarqawi suffered multiple bruises, scratches and deep head wounds, and Jones found no evidence he had been beaten or shot. X-rays also showed a fracture of his right lower leg.

Al-Zarqawi was overweight, a medical examiner said, but Caldwell declined to provide other personal characteristics. He also would not say whether any drugs were found in the militant’s body; officials said toxicology results would be released later.

“All the injuries found were consistent with the type seen in blast victims,” Jones said. “The abrasions, lacerations and the fracture were likely due to flying debris, or Zarqawi being thrown against a hard object by the force of the blast.”

U.S. officials previously had said al-Zarqawi mumbled and tried to roll off a stretcher before dying at the house outside Baqouba, about 35 miles northeast of Baghdad.

The military presented the details of al-Zarqawi’s death amid confusion about events leading up to it and a claim that U.S. troops beat the terror mastermind to death.

An Iraqi man identified only as Mohammed, who said he lives near the house where al-Zarqawi and five others were killed, told AP Television News and The Washington Post that he saw U.S. soldiers after the airstrike beating an injured man until blood flowed from his nose. He said the man resembled al-Zarqawi. It was not clear if he mistook first-aid procedures for a beating.

Caldwell said Iraqi forces were first at the scene. U.S. forces arrived about 28 minutes after the 6:12 p.m. airstrike Wednesday and a coalition medic began treating al-Zarqawi, who was having difficulty breathing. The terror leader died at 7:04 p.m., Caldwell said.

The military also said al-Zarqawi’s spiritual adviser, Sheik Abdul-Rahman, was killed instantly in the bombing. Abdul-Rahman’s wounds, including a fractured skull and multiple rib fractures, were more serious than al-Zarqawi’s.