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Zarqawi Q&A

By Times Staff
Published June 9, 2006

Why is Zarqawi's death important?

Zarqawi was the most-wanted terrorist in Iraq, and his demise should boost morale for coalition and Iraqi forces. Talks between Shiite and Sunni leaders may be more feasible.

Who gets the $25-million reward?

If the informer is smart, he or she will collect quietly. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Thursday the bounty will be honored but said nothing about claimants.

Are we sure the body is Zarqawi's?

Yes. The U.S. military identified Zarqawi by fingerprints, tattoos and visually. They are also testing the body's DNA, just to remove all potential for doubt.

Does the death of al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi mean that we've eliminated the chief of terrorism in Iraq?

No one is claiming that or that terrorism will end. Zarqawi was a foreigner who led a relatively small, but well-organized and effective, group of Islamic militants. His role in the overall Iraqi insurgency was never clear. Most analysts don't believe there is a single leader. It's important to remember that most of the violence in Iraq is home-grown. It's a complex mix of local Sunni Arab nationalists fighting a foreign occupier, Islamic militants, former Baath Party members from Saddam Hussein's regime and Shiite Arab militia groups, not to mention a large dose of outright criminality. That mix of sectarian and political violence is unlikely to disappear unless there is either some final political accommodation between Iraq's communities, or until one side comes out on top. There has been criticism that by focusing on Zarqawi, his role may have been exaggerated.

Have we at least killed al-Qaida in Iraq?

We've wounded it, but probably not mortally. Al-Qaida in Iraq vowed in a Web site posting to continue its "holy war." The nature of Zarqawi's attacks had increasingly made him unpopular. The next leader could use different methods. How effective and popular he is will determine whether the group remains a force.

How did we find Zarqawi?

Gen. George Casey, the U.S. commander in Iraq, said the hunt began two weeks ago. Tips and intelligence from senior leaders of Zarqawi's network led U.S. forces to him as he was meeting with associates. A U.S. military spokesman, Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, said U.S. and Iraqi intelligence found Zarqawi by following his spiritual adviser.

Why would some of his own people turn against Zarqawi?

Zarqawi's tactics - especially attacks on Arab civilians, including fellow Sunni Muslims - alienated many Arabs. In Iraq, Zarqawi had shifted from coalition and Western targets to Shiite Arabs, whom he vilified as infidels. His people may have become disenchanted with the beheadings and the attacks on mosques and shrines.

Who's likely to replace him?

It's not clear. Several deputies have been killed this year. Caldwell, the military's spokesman, suggested Egyptian-born Abu al-Masri was a "logical choice'' but didn't say why. Masri is thought to have come to Iraq in 2002 with the mission of creating an al-Qaida cell in Baghdad and is believed to be an expert bombmaker.

What's this mean for Osama bin Laden's organization?

Hard to say. Zarqawi was never a member of al-Qaida's senior command. He was an enormously charismatic regional leader, but whether he was al-Qaida's only representative in Iraq is open to question. Some originally saw him as competing with al-Qaida. He was admonished by bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, for his outspoken hatred for Shiite Muslims and his use of beheading. Even if Zarqawi were a major player, al-Qaida has shown great resilience, and its network of networks and followers has continued even as top leaders have been killed or captured. Even with Osama bin Laden in hiding, other militants have stepped forward to make good on his calls for terror attacks.

Sources: Associated Press, New York Times, BBC News, Times wires.

[Last modified June 9, 2006, 06:41:40]

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