|Abu Musab al-Zarqawi |
i Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki announced on Thursday that the most wanted insurgent in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had been killed.
Maliki made the announcement at a press conference in Baghdad with top U.S. commander in Iraq General George Casey.
He said that Zarqawi and seven of his top aides were killed in a U.S. raid on an area north of Baquba, some 65 km northeast of Baghdad, on Wednesday evening.
The prime minister, a prominent Shiite leader, also vowed to further efforts in the fight against insurgents in order to restore safety and order in Iraq, while pledging to strengthen national unity.
General Casey said that the U.S. military would give detailed information on Zarqawi's death at another news conference scheduled for 3:00 p.m. (1100 GMT).
He said that the U.S. air raid came after an intelligence tip- off and that Zarqawi and his aides were believed to be holding a meeting when the raid occurred.
Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, who also attended the press conference, described the killing of Zarqawi as "a good omen" to the new Iraqi government in the efforts in the war against terror.
Congratulating Maliki on the death of the most wanted man in Iraq, Khalilzad, meanwhile, also warned of "difficult days ahead" in the fight against terrorists.
In addition, Khalilzad also called upon Iraqi leaders from all the ethnic groups to stick to national unity and put an end to sectarian violence.
Zarqawi, with a 25 million U.S. bounty on his head, is believed to be the top leader of the al-Qaida terror group in Iraq. He is accused of being behind some of the most gruesome kidnappings and killings including beheadings in Iraq.