Image of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in death released by U.S. military
WASHINGTON – When Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al-Qaida leader in Iraq, was killed today by 500-pound bombs dropped by two F-16 fighter jets on a house north of Baghdad, it was the result of intelligence information gathered, in part, by an elite task force of international special operations forces formed just a month ago with the express purpose of taking him out.
The “A-Team” created for the mission drew on the skills and expertise of U.S. Army Green Berets, “Tier 1” of Britain’s Special Air Service and the Israeli Mossad, as reported last month in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin, the premium, online intelligence newsletter published by the founder of WND.
The decision to form the unit was taken after a top-level conference between U.S. and British defense chiefs in Washington a month ago.
The unit was part of the already-secret Task Force Black run by Britain’s MI6 out of coalition forces headquarters in Baghdad. Nicknamed “The Untouchables,” it was given a no-holds barred brief in pursuit of Zarqawi in May.
To avoid detection, the team dressed in clothes bought from second-hand stalls in Baghdad’s back-street markets. They regularly sprayed themselves with a pungent, sweat-smelling odor known as “souk scent.” Each man wore contact lenses that turned their eye color brown or black. The goal was to permit them to look like any other Iraqi peasant as they hunted the most bloodthirsty killer in Iraq.
“The Untouchables” were assured in advance they need fear no investigation into their methods to bring Zarqawi to summary justice.
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
Though Zarqawi was done in ultimately by massive bombs delivered from high-tech fighters, the unit members were each equipped with L115A-338 sniper rifles that allowed them to kill at 1,000 yards. But the key to the mission was the fact that each made high-risk surveillance operations into normally no-go areas in Iraq.
While officially Israel denies any presence in Iraq, four Mossad assassins were assigned to serve with the unit.
“The Untouchables” also used thermal-imaging equipment to probe the “rat holes” the terror chief used as he flitted around Baghdad and other cities. They also had at their disposal a CIA-operated Predator unmanned aircraft able to provide a real-time video feedback of any area where Zarqawi was spotted.
Zarqawi boasted on his website of beheading innocent victims, including the murders of more than 1,000 British and American soldiers in Iraq over the past two years. Zarqawi also led terrorists that killed thousands of Iraqis through relentless suicide bombings and organized attacks. Many of the bombings were directed at large crowds of Shi’ites under a strategy U.S. and Iraqi officials said was designed to trigger a civil war.
Gen. Sir Timothy Granville-Chapman, Britain’s vice chief of the defense staff, had told senior officers in Baghdad that “removing this terrorist will be a massive blow against al-Qaida.”
Maj. Gen. William Caldwell told a news conference today the big breakthrough that led to Zarqawi’s location came while U.S. forces were trailing Zarqawi’s spiritual adviser, Sheikh Abdul-Rahman.
“Through painstaking intelligence efforts we were able to start tracking him, monitoring his movements. … Last night, he went to meet [Zarqawi] again at 6:15 p.m. when the decision was made to go ahead and strike that target,” he added.
Zarqawi came from humble beginnings – a former street thug from Jordan. But he remained elusive despite several U.S. military offensives, a $25 million bounty on his head and the capture of what officials said were several of his aides.
Caldwell said an Egyptian militant trained in Afghanistan named Abu al-Masari, who established the first al-Qaida cell in Baghdad, may succeed Zarqawi as head of the group in Iraq.
“What everyone needs to understand is the strike last night did not occur in a 24-hour period,” he said. “It truly was a very long, painstaking, deliberate exploitation of intelligence, information gathering, human sources, electronics, signal intelligence that was done over a period of time, many, many weeks.”
An Israeli security official told WND final information on Zarqawi’s whereabouts came from Jordanian intelligence, saying Egyptian intelligence had the same information.
There were six people in the house, including a woman and a child, but only Zarqawi and Abdul-Rahman have been identified.
Caldwell said important information was found at the location that led to 17 simultaneous raids later that night in Baghdad and its outskirts that uncovered a “treasure trove” of information.
But he cautioned against being overly optimistic because Zarqawi’s followers still posed a threat.
“It’s not the beginning or the end but it is a step forward,” said Caldwell. “Ridding Iraq of Zarqawi will not instantaneously stop the violence.”
If you would like to sound off on this issue, participate in today’s WND Poll.