Al-Qaida terror group in Iraq on Thursday confirmed the death of its leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, according to a statement posted on the Internet.
"We announce the joyous news of the martyrdom of our warrior Sheikh Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq," said the statement posted on an Islamic Web site.
"This is an honor to our nation," said the statement signed by Zarqawi's deputy Abu Abdulrahman al-Iraqi.
"Our leader's death will only boost our persistence in continuing the holy war," it added.
The authenticity of the statement cannot be immediately verified.
Earlier in the day, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki announced at a Baghdad news conference that Zarqawi, the most wanted man in Iraq, had been killed in a joint U.S. and Iraqi operation north of Baghdad on Wednesday evening.
The Jordanian-born 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.