U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Thursday that the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq is a significant victory in the war against terror and will slow down his terrorist network.
"Let there be no doubt, the fact that he is dead is a significant victory in the battle against terrorism in that country, and I would say worldwide, because he had interests outside of Iraq," he told reporters.
He added, however, the death of the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq does not mean the end of violence in the country.
"Given the nature of the terrorist networks -- really a network of networks -- the death of Zarqawi, while enormously important, will not mean the end of all violence in that country."
Rumsfeld said he received information of Al-Zarqawi's death Wednesday night. The validation of al-Zarqawi's identity took several hours, he added.
Commanders decided to use air power instead of going after him on the ground for fears of risks of his escape, he said.
The American forces attacked the building where al-Zarqawi was having a meeting and then put people on the ground to validate his identity with fingerprints.
When asked to gauge the damage of al-Zarqawi's death to his terrorist network, Rumsfeld said: "It doesn't help the network."
"It will slow them down," he added.
Rumsfeld described al-Zarqawi as a man who "personified the dark sadistic and medieval vision of the future -- of beheadings, suicide bombings and indiscriminate killings."
"I think arguably over the last several years, no single person on this planet has had the blood of more innocent men, women and children on his hands than Zarqawi," he said.
Rumsfeld said he briefed his colleagues on the death of al- Zarqawi in a meeting Thursday morning.
When asked how the other defense ministers received the news, Rumsfeld replied with humor: "Positively."
He hailed as "a momentous step" the appointment of an Iraqi defense minister and interior minister as well as an intelligence chief. He said by these appointments, the Iraqi government would be complete and he was looking forward to working with the ministers.
He pointed out that al-Zarqawi was trying to block the formation of a new Iraqi government but failed.