U.S. President George W. Bush said Thursday that the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al-Qaida leader in Iraq, was a victory in the anti-terror war and a severe blow to the terrorist organization.
"Zarqawi's death is a severe blow to al Qaida. It's a victory in the global war on terror, and it is an opportunity for Iraq's new government to turn the tide of this struggle," Bush said in a statement at the White House.
Nevertheless, the president acknowledged that despite the al-Zarqawi's death, violence in Iraq would continue.
"Zarqawi is dead, but the difficult and necessary mission in Iraq continues," he said.
Bush said he expected terrorists and insurgents in Iraq would "carry on without him (Zarqawi)," and the sectarian violence would continue.
"We have tough days ahead of us in Iraq that will require the continuing patience of the American people," he said.
American and Iraqi officials have announced the death of Zarqawi and seven of his top aides in a joint U.S.-Iraqi raid near Baquba, some 65 km northeast of Baghdad, on Wednesday evening.
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.