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Taking Out a Terrorist: The Death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi

Aired June 8, 2006 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening again, everyone -- a dramatic night tonight.
Tonight, from the intelligence to the planning to what happens now that a truly evil man is dead -- moment by moment, all the angles, taking out a terrorist.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Now Zarqawi has met his end. And this violent man will never murder again.

ANNOUNCER: Intelligence on the ground, F-16s above -- how the final chase began and how it paid off.

Who was this guy? From beheadings to suicide bombings, his trail of terror and the road ahead for Iraq.

What the killing of one terrorist might mean for the country and our sons and daughters.

And what about bin Laden?

LIEUTENANT GENERAL KARL EIKENBERRY, COMMANDING GENERAL, AFGHANISTAN COMBINED FORCES COMMAND: We will keep after him, until, one day, he is either captured or killed.

ANNOUNCER: So what's the holdup?


ANNOUNCER: Tonight, a special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360: "Taking Out a Terrorist: The Death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi."

Reporting live from Boston, here's Anderson Cooper.

COOPER: Thanks for joining us.

If any single man could be called the spark for much of the misery today in Iraq, that man was Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Now, after eluding capture, giving police the slip, even escaping the eye of a Predator drone at one point, he was tracked to a safe house in Baquba, north of Baghdad, one of the roughest parts of Iraq.

There, he was cornered, targeted, and finally taken out -- tonight, all the angles, starting with inside details of the takedown, how coalition forces picked up the scent, and the ultra-secret unit involved -- also, the impact. Zarqawi fueled and fostered the current violence in Iraq, with kidnappings, mosque bombings and the like. Will his death actually change anything, or have things simply gone too far for any single person to matter? We will look at that.

And what comes next for al Qaeda in Iraq, al Qaeda around the world and 135,000 American member and women still in harm's way? All that and more tonight.

First, the takedown.

CNN's Jamie McIntyre.


JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was late afternoon, and two U.S. Air Force F-16Cs like these were on routine patrol over Iraq when their radios crackled with urgent new orders. The pilots were vectored to Baquba and given coordinates for a single isolated house nestled in a palm and fig grove eight clicks to the north.

At 6:15 p.m., one of the F-16s dropped two 500-pound bombs, one laser-guided, the other satellite-guided, after being told to make sure to take out the house in a way that would ensure a HVT, a high- value target, inside would be killed.

MAJ. GEN. WILLIAM CALDWELL, MULTINATIONAL FORCE, IRAQ: We had absolutely no doubt whatsoever that Zarqawi was in the house. It was 100 percent confirmation.

MCINTYRE: Why so sure? Pentagon sources say members of a covert special operations unit charged with finding Zarqawi had the house surrounded and knew his every move.

An informant had led the U.S. to Zarqawi's spiritual adviser. And an unmanned spy plane tracked him to the safe house and to Zarqawi.

The U.S. commandos then surrounded the house. Because Zarqawi was essentially trapped, the F-16s were told to take their time, that the house was not, in the words of one Air Force commander, a time- sensitive target. That commander says the rubble tells the story of why two 500-pound bombs were needed. The safe house was a solidly built structure made of reinforced concrete. The second bomb was to ensure the blast killed anyone inside the building.

At least six people were killed, including Zarqawi, the man described as his spiritual adviser, and a woman and a child, possibly family members.

GENERAL GEORGE CASEY, COMMANDER, MULTINATIONAL FORCE IN IRAQ: We have been able to identify Zarqawi through fingerprint verification, facial recognition, and known scars.

MCINTYRE: As soon as that was confirmed, U.S. and Iraqi forces raided 17 locations in and around Baghdad that had been under surveillance for weeks.

CALDWELL: And, in those 17 raids last night, a tremendous amount of information and intelligence was collected and is presently being exploited and utilized for further use. It was -- I mean, it was a treasure trove.

MCINTYRE (on camera): Intelligence is the key to finding an individual in a country the size of Iraq. And General George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, says tips and intelligence from senior leaders in Zarqawi's network led to his demise.

Jamie McIntyre, CNN, the Pentagon.


COOPER: And we're going to talk about what that may mean for the insurgency, if they were turning on one another.

But we are just getting this exclusive video in, the final proof where Zarqawi is concerned, DNA samples taken from the scene in Baquba. They're in that bag, apparently, arriving tonight in the states for analysis and identification at the FBI's crime lab in Quantico, Virginia, just outside Washington. Final results are expected in about two days.

Those results will be given to the Department of Defense. And it is up to them to -- to make the announcement, to release those results, or decide who will actually make that announcement. That will be that.

Now the reaction tonight and the repercussions in Iraq, here, and around the region.


COOPER (voice-over): Cheers and applause made it difficult to hear the announcement in Baghdad. The prime minister told the world, the most-wanted man in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, is dead.

In Washington, President Bush said military forces delivered justice.

BUSH: Now Zarqawi has met his end, and this violent man will never murder again. Zarqawi's death is a severe blow to al Qaeda.

COOPER: But the president also had a warning.

BUSH: We can expect the terrorists and insurgents to carry on without him.

COOPER: In Brussels, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Zarqawi's death should slow down the insurgency.

DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: 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 personified the dark, sadistic and medieval vision of the future of beheadings and suicide bombings and indiscriminate killings.

COOPER: The Jordanian-born terrorist is believed to have personally beheaded American contractor Nick Berg in 2004, as well as others.

Berg's father says he finds no solace in Zarqawi's death.

MICHAEL BERG, FATHER OF NICK BERG: It's a sad day whenever any human being is -- is killed. But he's also a political figure. And, as such, his death will reignite the resistance in Iraq. And it will also possibly reignite the resistance throughout the world.

COOPER: On two Islamic Web site that have carried Zarqawi's messages, al Qaeda in Iraq confirmed his death and urged followers to continue the fight, saying in one statement, "People of Islam, God will not let our enemies celebrate and spread corruption in the ground."

The U.S. ambassador to Iraq took that message to heart.

ZALMAY KHALILZAD, UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: There are going to be difficult days ahead, but I believe what happened today was very important, positive. It was a good day.

COOPER: And Zarqawi's brother-in-law won't even call it a killing.

"He is the martyr of Islam," he says, "and he is the imam of all Muslims. I'm happy about his martyrdom. This is not a death. It is martyrdom."


COOPER: Well, not all Muslims, of course. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had a hatred for -- for Shia Muslims, and targeted many of them in Iraq.

As the American ambassador said, by and large, it was a good day, a very good day, the way most of us measure good, this in a place where many days are marked by dozens of civilian casualties, upwards of 600 insurgent attacks weekly, 1,400 killings in Baghdad alone last month, 1,400.

Then there's the alleged Marine massacre in Haditha. Thankfully, today shifted the focus a bit, with the killing of Zarqawi and the naming of two top ministers in the Iraqi government.

With more on what happens now and the road ahead, here's CNN's John Vause in Baghdad.


JOHN VAUSE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As he led insurgents on a vicious two-year campaign, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had one main goal: to foster a civil war between Sunnis and Shiites.

"Now we have finished with Zarqawi, we will get rid of all the terrorists, and may God protect Iraq," says this woman.

Zarqawi and his loyal following of foreign fanatics have been responsible for only a fraction of the daily violence in Iraq. But U.S. officials hope the death of Iraq's most-wanted man will mean fewer civilian casualties.

CALDWELL: He wasn't interested in going after coalition forces, by what he said himself. He was -- he was just interested in killing people.

VAUSE: For Zarqawi, nothing was sacred. An attack on a Shiite mosque in Samarra in February sparked a wave of riots which left more than 100 dead and threatened to push Iraq into a civil war.

As some Iraqi policemen celebrated the news, many others, worn down by three long years of violence, are hoping this could be a turning point.

"We congratulate the Iraqi government and the prime minister on the death of Zarqawi. And, God willing, this will be the end of all terrorists."

But there were words of caution as well.

KHALILZAD: The change in the level of violence is not going to be immediate. It's -- there are going to be difficult days ahead. There are a lot of forces involved in violence.

VAUSE: In the hours following Zarqawi's death, at least 37 Iraqis were killed in five separate explosions in Baghdad alone. And the Iraqi government is now bracing for retaliatory attacks.


COOPER: John Vause joins us now from Baghdad.

I mean, do Iraqis really believe that Zarqawi's death will make a difference?

VAUSE: Well, some, really, more out of optimism than any reality and based in truth. They are just clinging to anything that might give them some hope that the violence here will come to an end.

In our limited movement in our part of Baghdad, we did speak to some Iraqis who were not so optimistic. What they told us is that, tomorrow, there will be more bodies turning up. There will be more severed heads, like the 17 severed heads found in Baquba earlier this week.

Now, what they also say is that that will only come to an end when this new Iraqi government and these new security forces get a handle on the militias, because not only are part of Baghdad no-go areas, but large part of Iraq remains no-go areas, because they're under the control of these militias -- Anderson.

COOPER: Severed heads a sign of the sectarian violence plaguing the country.

John Vause, thanks.

More perspective now from two people with years of experience on the ground, in Brisbane, Australia, Michael Ware of "TIME" magazine, and, in London, CNN chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour.

Good to see both of you.

Michael, how much of a blow is Zarqawi's death to the movement, to the insurgency and the terrorist movement in Iraq?

MICHAEL WARE, BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF, "TIME": Well, Anderson, this is certainly going to force an evolution, both within his al Qaeda organization and within the broader insurgency itself.

The test is going to be whether the generation of al Qaeda fighters that he brought to Iraq and that he found among the Iraqis will continue on the path that he set. It's going to be very key to see whether the long-term pressure to put an Iraqi face on al Qaeda bears fruit. That could see some changes.

Also, within the broader insurgency, I would expect that the Baathists will be the first to maximize this opportunity and try and reassert their authority within the insurgency. They have been struggling with him from the beginning. And I think it's friction like that, that he caused that's led to his betrayal.

But to gauge the future, watch the suicide bombings. Other groups do them, but Zarqawi's al Qaeda really drove them. Let's see whether they maintain their frequency. But, more particularly, let's see what they start targeting from here on in. That will be telling -- Anderson.

COOPER: Christiane, U.S. officials have said that tips and intelligence from Iraqi senior leaders within Zarqawi's own network helped in the operation. If that is, in fact, true, how significant would it be?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, very significant, because the aim of any counterinsurgency fight is to get to the people around them, to deny the insurgents their core support, the environment around them, the people around them, the civilian population around them. So, that would be significant.

And, as Michael says, watch the suicide bombings. Look, you just mentioned that 1,400 Iraqis were killed in Baghdad alone last month. Now, the Baghdad morgue says that is double the number that was killed in Baghdad a year ago, in May a year ago. So, the killing has been getting so much worse.

But not just is it a fight against the insurgency, to try to whittle away at that, but it's also an attempt by the new Iraqi government, which has now named its new key security ministers, to actually try to convince people to vest in the political process, that their contract should be with politics and the government, and not individual militias or violence.

And, as you know, the security services there are infiltrated by militias. And militias are essentially the -- the -- the people who are providing the security to the Shiites, who fear the Sunni insurgents, but also are conducting a lot of revenge attacks, death squads, kidnapping squads, and all those kinds of things that are going on. So, it's a really complicated scene of violence there.


And -- and, Michael, I mean, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi made it a mission to target Shias within Iraq, fellow Muslims who he considered, frankly, infidels, because they -- they weren't part of the -- the Sunni branch and his particular sect of the Sunni branch.

Does that aspect of the insurgency continue? I mean, do the bombings of -- of Shia mosques continue?

WARE: Well, this will be one of the great insights.

I suspect that -- that the sectarian strife will continue. I -- I don't think there's much doubt about that. I mean, Zarqawi was pivotal in inciting that and inflaming it. He kept pushing it and pushing it. But I suspect it's now found its -- its own momentum.

I mean, there's so much politics hiding behind the sectarian strife now, as the Sunni and Shia vie for power, politically and on the streets, and within the security forces. But what we will see now is whether the targeting of mosques, of innocent Shias praying within these mosques, are targeted themselves.

This is something that's caused great unrest and debate within al Qaeda's own organization in Iraq, within the broader insurgency and with -- within al Qaeda globally. I mean, this is one of the lightning rods that Zarqawi created. So, this will be telling.

COOPER: Michael, we will have more from you and from Christiane in -- in a moment. Stick around.

U.S. military leaders and analysts are already weighing in on who may replace Zarqawi as the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq. Here's the "Raw Data."

The top pick from Pentagon officials is an Egyptian-born man named Abu al-Masri, who is to believed to be an expert at building roadside bombs, the number-one killer of U.S. forces in Iraq, the IEDs, of course.

Some people are talking about another guy, Sheik Abdul al-Rahman, the spiritual adviser who was thought to be killed in today's bombing. But a letter was signed on an al Qaeda Web site with his name, condemning the attack. So, is he alive? We don't know at this point. That, for some, at least, cast doubt on his actual death.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was both man and a myth, really, the most- wanted man in Iraq, with a $25 million bounty on his head. Coming up: how this troubled teenager -- that's what he used to look like -- who was going nowhere fast turned himself, in a number of years, into a major player in the world of terror.

Also, what Zarqawi's death might mean for the insurgency in Iraq -- how much of the violence was he really responsible for? You might be surprised, a small percentage.

And what all of this means for al Qaeda -- could Osama bin Laden actually be celebrating now that Zarqawi is out of the picture? A look at what was a very complicated relationship between these killers -- coming up on 360.


COOPER: Well, the three-year search for al Qaeda's leader in Iraq ended last night with two enormous bomb blasts. Crucial tips, we're told, from inside Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's inner circle led to the U.S. military to its hiding spot. That's what the U.S. military is saying.

To understand how Zarqawi ended up at that safe house near Baquba, we turn now to CNN's John Roberts -- John.

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, to hear some American troops tell it, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was a victim of his own ambition, a man betrayed by his own followers who so craved the spotlight, that it finally found him at tip of a 500-pound laser- guided bomb.


J. ROBERTS (voice-over): Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was the man behind the mask, the terrorist who gained notoriety in Iraq by claiming credit for the brutal beheading of American Nicholas Berg in 2004.

ABU MONTASSER, JORDANIAN FRIEND OF AL-ZARQAWI (through translator): The guy who read the statement was Abu Musab al Zarqawi. The guy who cut his head was Abu Musab. But I couldn't believe it. It disgusted me.

J. ROBERTS: Two years later, when Zarqawi took off the mask and finally showed his face in this video, he was al Qaeda's man in Iraq and America's top target there.

Zarqawi's story actually began in neighboring Jordan in the working-class city of Zarqa, a town that a young militant named Ahmad Fadeel al-Khalayleh would later use as an alias. A troubled youth, Zarqawi drank alcohol, a taboo in Islam.

Then he found God and made his way to Afghanistan in 1999 to fight against the Soviet occupation. It's not clear if he ever saw combat, but when he returned to Jordan years later, his aim was clear, to overthrow the government of King Hussein and help create an Islamic state.

GEN. ALI SHUKRI, ADVISER TO JORDAN'S KING HUSSEIN: He started to plan attacks against visitors, tourists, coming into Jordan. He managed to create his own unit.

J. ROBERTS: Soon, Zarqawi was in a Jordanian prison, where he emerged as a leader among militants. Freed in a 1999 amnesty, he once again went to Afghanistan, where he established his own training camp. After the Taliban regime was toppled by the American military action, he fled.

In 2002, according to U.S. and Jordanian officials, Zarqawi masterminded the assassination of an American diplomat in Amman. Just a few months later, Zarqawi's name was mentioned on a worldwide stage, for the first time associated with Iraq.


COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: Iraq today harbors a deadly terrorist network headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an associate and collaborator of Osama bin Laden.


J. ROBERTS: While the pre-war ties between Zarqawi and Saddam Hussein have been disputed, the irony is that Zarqawi emerged in Iraq after the war, doing so in a very bloody fashion. His group claimed responsibility for a series of violent and deadly suicide attacks, beginning with the bombing of the U.N. compound in Baghdad.

But, mostly, his attacks were against Iraq's Shiite majority. Zarqawi sought Osama bin Laden's seal of approval and got it.


OSAMA BIN LADEN, AL QAEDA LEADER (through translator): Abu Musab al Zarqawi is the prince of al Qaeda in Iraq. So, we ask all our organization's brethren to listen to him and obey him and his good deeds.


J. ROBERTS: Zarqawi had eclipsed bin Laden as a man of action, even launching a deadly triple bombing against targets in his native Jordan.

In Iraq, Zarqawi was public enemy number one, eluding the U.S. military, even though there was a $25 million reward on his head. He was apparently captured and released at least once, when American troops failed to recognize him.

When Zarqawi finally shed his mask, he taunted President Bush and proclaimed victory on behalf of the insurgency.

ABU MUSAB AL-ZARQAWI, AL QAEDA LEADER (through translator): Every time the mujahedeen strike, it makes you lie more and more, claiming that everything is under control. But your lies are exposed to everyone, far and near.

MAJOR GENERAL RICK LYNCH, U.S. MILITARY COMMAND IN BAGHDAD SENIOR SPOKESMAN, U.S. ARMY: What he didn't show you were the clips that I showed.

J. ROBERTS: The U.S., in turn, taunted him, showing outtakes of his video, suggesting he was not exactly a superman of jihad, more a man who couldn't shoot straight. But, as one old Jordanian friend put it, Zarqawi had already made his mark.

MONTASSER (through translator): He definitely is going to go down in history. He went down -- took his mark in history. And that's what he always wanted.

J. ROBERTS: Zarqawi recognized he was a hunted man. "Eyes are everywhere," he wrote in a letter to bin Laden, eyes that finally found him in Baquba.


J. ROBERTS: So, what of that $25 million reward? I talked with America's ambassador to Iraq today, who said because the intelligence on Zarqawi came interest captured al Qaeda members, that reward will likely go unclaimed -- Anderson.

COOPER: Interesting. John Roberts, thanks.

We have just touched the surface on what we know about Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. In a moment, I will talk once again with "TIME" magazine Baghdad bureau chief Michael Ware, who has spent probably more time with insurgents and studying this insurgency than anyone, also, CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen.

But, first, Thomas Roberts from Headline News joins us with some of the other stories we are following tonight -- Thomas.


Warlords in Somalia supported by the U.S. may be heading back now to the country's capital. They had been driven out by an Islamist militia believed to be harboring al Qaeda operatives. Resident there tell Reuters News Service the warlords have been reinforced and are advancing back towards Mogadishu. They vowed to win back the capital. Somalia is considered a potential haven for terrorists, and has had no functioning central government for 15 years.

Off the shores of the U.S., the USS Cole is back at sea. It left a port today for its first Middle East deployment since an al Qaeda attack six years ago blew a hole in its side, killing 17 sailors aboard. Repairs of the ship cost $250 million.

In Washington, the FDA has approved the first vaccine to fight cervical cancer. The vaccine called Gardasil calls -- goes after the four most significant forms of the virus that actually cause this disease. Now, every year, cervical cancer kills nearly 4,000 women in the United States.

And, in Chicago, detox for BlackBerry addicts. Anderson, listen up. Customers at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel who want to truly escape can actually leave their BlackBerrys and other communication devices in the manager's office, where they're going to be kept under lock and key, free of charge. The hotel's manager actually came up with the idea, after he himself had to kick his own BlackBerry addiction.

And, Anderson, I know this story just calls out your name. I am going to call and make a reservation for you at this hotel, if I can you off your BlackBerry to pay attention to me.

It's not going work, is it? No. I'm calling the Chicago Hotel.

COOPER: Oh, hey, cool.


COOPER: All right. Hey, thanks, Thomas.

Time now for "The Shot." Take a look at this, the most compelling video of the day. Tonight, really no more compelling video than this. As you know by now, of course, this is the shot, literally, that took out Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, two Air Force F-16 dropping a pair of 500-pound precision-guided bombs on a safe house near Baquba -- clearly, not too much of a safe house, where Zarqawi had been meeting with associates. It has been a remarkable 24-hour period, Thomas.

T. ROBERTS: The Air Force not taking any chances with that one. That's for sure.

COOPER: Yes. Thomas, thanks.

T. ROBERTS: You're welcome.

COOPER: The most-wanted man in Iraq is dead, a mission the military says went flawlessly, a reason for U.S. troops and the White House to celebrate. But will it make a difference where it matters, on the ground and across Iraq? We're going to take a look at that.

Also, if troops can take out Zarqawi, why not Osama bin Laden? The U.S. has been trying to capture him for nearly five years now. We will look at some of the hangups -- ahead on 360.


COOPER: A special edition of 360, Taking Out a Terrorist, The Death of Abu Musab Al Zarqawi continues. The U.S. military and the White House celebrating tonight certainly the most-wanted man in Iraq taken out by a pair of 500-pound bombs after months of zeroing in on his whereabouts, weeks of intense tracking we are told. For some more perspective we turn now to Michael Ware, "Time Magazine's" Baghdad bureau chief, the newest member of the CNN family. We're please that Michael has joined us as a correspondent. And standing by -- he is standing by in Brisbane, Australia. And in Zurich, Switzerland we're joined by CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen, who knew more about the insurgency than just about anyone.

Michael, what does it tell us -- I mean if it's true that insiders gave up Abu Musab Al Zarqawi to U.S. forces, what does that tell us about what is going on inside this insurgency? Why would insurgents give up one of their own?

WARE: Well, Anderson, this has been going on for quite some time. Certainly at least since the middle of 2004 during the insurgents, you know, relative glory days of holding Fallujah, it's been a very uncomfortable fit for many within the insurgency to have Zarqawi in such a leading role and carrying out such vicious attacks. There's been a lot of debate about the worth of his methods. There's also power plays that need to be considered. I mean this is, to some degree we've seen turf wars. So the fact that there's friction is absolutely nothing new and it's the very thing that U.S. military intelligence has been seeking to capitalize on from the beginning.

There's also been a lot of pressure from Al Qaeda head office, for want of a better term, in Waziristan, to see a more Iraqi fight. There's been pressure from the ground for more Iraqi fights and Iraqi style. We saw in January that Zarqawi reinvented publicly at least, the jihad in Iraq by creating this relatively fake construct being the Mujahadeen Shura Council, an umbrella group of which his organization was said to be one. So the fact that the betrayal has come from within almost had to happen as a matter of calculation one day sooner or later.

COOPER: Peter Bergen in a new article in the "Atlantic Online" I was just reading about Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, someone was quoted as saying that he was a symbol of the insurgency but he was really never its leader. That only about 10 percent -- he might have had the most brutal attacks but only about 10 percent of insurgent attacks were really directly related to Abu Musab Al Zarqawi. So how significant really is his death?

PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, the 10 percent were actually the most important attacks because they were the kind of the major suicide operations that got the United Nations to withdraw, that sparked the civil war that got every international aid organization pretty much to pull out. So, even though there was a limited number of attacks and the foreign fighters only account for, say, 1500 to 2000 at any given moment in Iraq and there's a much larger Iraqi insurgency, it's the foreign fighters that have been doing the suicide operations. Only 10 percent of the suicide operations are Iraqi. And those operations have had a disproportionate affect on in terms of what's actually happening strategically in Iraq.

COOPER: Michael Ware, we're told a number of other people were taken out as well at the same time, there were also about more than a dozen raids around Baghdad in relation to this. They said they got a treasure trove of information. Is there someone else waiting in the wings to take over Al Qaeda in Iraq for Abu Musab Al Zarqawi?

WARE: Well, there's a number of candidates, both foreign and Iraqi. So this is going to be the real litmus test for the Al Qaeda in Iraq organization. The real question is will it be an Iraqi, I mean there's been so much pressure for that to happen. And that could have immediate consequence on the use of Al Qaeda tactics and their targeting methods. It will also impact on the degree of coordination between Al Qaeda and the homegrown Iraqi groups. It's much simpler for Iraqis to be dealing with other Iraqis. Perhaps even former military comrades. So there is a number of people. And don't forget, Al Qaeda has shown an extraordinary ability to replenish and regenerate each time it's been disrupted. It has to be said this will be a significant disruption. Let's see how they come back.

COOPER: Peter Bergen, the relationship between Abu Musab Al Zarqawi and Osama Bin Laden is just a fascinating one. I mean there are a lot of reports that said these two guys actually hated each other and yet they both sort of needed each other, Bin Laden gave Zarqawi legitimacy, gave him the Al Qaeda connection. And Zarqawi gave Osama Bin Laden a sense of relevancy.

BERGEN: Yeah, I mean they probably met around 1999 when Zarqawi went to Afghanistan. He set up a training camp, hundreds of miles from Al Qaeda's base in Kandahar in Harat and Western Afghanistan. And he really set up a group that was opposed to the Jordanian government. He didn't have any truck with anti-American attacks at that time. As the war against the Taliban unfolded he fled to Iran, he moved into Iraq, he began trying to attack American targets. But then it took him at least two years to finally formally pledge allegiance to Bin Laden, rename his group Al Qaeda in Iraq which he did in 2004. And then of course since then they have a back and forth about Al Qaeda leadership not wanting a Sunni-Shia civil war in Iraq that would spread regionally. Bin Laden's never criticized the Shia, he's never criticized the Iranian government --

COOPER: Bin Laden's mother is Shia, isn't Bin Laden's mother Shia?

BERGEN: She's believed to be an Alawite from Syria, which I think is one of the sects in Shia. So, it's something that the Al Qaeda leadership did not want. They also didn't want all of these beheadings of civilians. Zarqawi did seem to stop that. But Bin Laden, privately, at the moment, I'm sure he's publicly going to say that Zarqawi's death is a wonderful martyrdom, but privately he may be hoping that somebody, whoever takes Al Qaeda in Iraq over is a little more -- follows the central direction from the Al Qaeda leadership in Waziristan.

COOPER: Michael in this article in the "Atlantic Monthly", Mary Ann Weaver talks to a lot of people who are suggesting that the U.S. made Abu Musab Al Zarqawi into a bigger player than he really was, for a variety of reasons, political and strategic. Do you think that's true?

WARE: Well, there certainly has been that put about for a couple of years now. And once there may have been political or military propaganda advantage into putting a face on the bogeyman facing the Americans in Iraq. I don't think it can be disputed that, despite the relatively small size of his forces and the relatively small number of attacks of the 5, 600 odd a month that take place in Iraq, Zarqawi's influence went far beyond the proportions of his organization. He was able to take the public momentum of the insurgency and within the jihad community globally, he was able to seize the stage. He drew attention to himself and made a superstar of himself.

COOPER: And the superstar is dead. Michael Ware, Peter Bergen, thanks for your perspectives.

If Zarqawi was the prince of Al Qaeda in Iraq or the superstar as Michael Ware says, well then this man is probably the king. Osama Bin Laden's still free, of course, still taunting the world. An update on the search for him, that is next.

And later why some fear Zarqawi's death may lead to an even bigger army of suicide bombers and terrorists. That and more when this special edition of 360 continues.


COOPER: I want to show you this exclusive video, the final proof where Zarqawi is concerned. Those are DNA samples inside that bag taken from the scene in Baquba of the attack arriving tonight in the United States for analysis and identification, at the FBI's crime lab in Quantico, Virginia, just outside Washington. Inside that bag DNA samples. We don't know exactly what sort of DNA samples but believed to from Abu Musab Al Zarqawi. Final results will be expected in about two days.

Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, of course, was the most-wanted man in Iraq, we know that. He was not the most wanted terrorist in the world. Osama Bin Laden is. President Bush vowed to bring the Al Qaeda leader to justice. That pledge was made nearly five years ago. CNN'S Barbara Starr reports now on the long and troubled hunt for Bin Laden.


BARBARA STARR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: U.S. troops got Abu Musab Al Zarqawi the old fashioned way, tracking tips and assembling intelligence. And that is why 4 1/2 years after the 9/11 attacks it is still so hard to get Osama Bin Laden.

LT. GEN. KARL EIKENBERRY, COMBINED FORCES COMMAND: We will keep after him until one day he is either captured or killed.

STARR: Lieutenant General Karl Eikenberry commands 23,000 troops in Afghanistan. But they are not allowed to cross the border into Pakistan where Bin Laden is believed to be sheltered by loyal tribes and Taliban fighters. If there are tips, the U.S. either has to rely on Pakistani troops or armed drones to act on them. So far, neither has worked. Although many Al Qaeda leaders have been taken out. As the hunt has continued, the war in Afghanistan has taken a grim turn.

The U.S. military says, it's fighting an insurgency now here in Afghanistan. And a counterinsurgency campaign they say, could take years to succeed. The Taliban are stronger now than anyone expected. Especially in the south and east along the Pakistan border.

MAJ. GEN. BENJAMIN FREAKLEY, COMBINED JOINT TASK FORCE 76: The fight has not diminished. But they have -- it had time to reorganize, they've had time to recruit more. They've had time to get funding.

STARR: Eikenberry knows that could make getting Bin Laden even tougher. But that's his mission. EIKENBERRY: We have an obligation to one day either kill or capture Bin Laden for the purpose of justice to the American people and indeed to the entire world for the misery that this man has inflicted. And we keep faith with that.

STARR: Intelligence officials tell CNN they continue to get unverified reports of Bin Laden sightings. If one of those tips ever pans out, the greatest likelihood is that the CIA would quickly launch a predator drone carrying a missile and attempt to kill the world's most-wanted man. Barbara Starr, CNN, the Pentagon.


COOPER: Well the notion was raised earlier tonight in our program that some believe that Osama Bin Laden may be happy tonight that Zarqawi's dead. Not because he will be seen as a martyr but because Zarqawi was actually a threat to Bin Laden's power and to his relevancy in the terrorist movement around the world. CNN's David Ensor takes a look at that angle.


DAVID ENSOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The air strikes that killed Zarqawi were a punch in the gut for Al Qaeda in Iraq and worldwide. And the way U.S. officials say they tracked him down, with inside help from his associates, gives some analysts hope it could be a turning point.

TOM FRIEDMAN, NEW YORK TIMES CONSULTANT: It's a total inside job. And that they penetrated this movement in a very deep way and that can build real momentum down the road. Because again, when people -- people think Bin Laden and Zarqawi are winners, they'll support them. But the minute they smell these guys are losers they'll run away from them.

ENSOR: Zarqawi was not just any terrorist. A heinous killer, yes, but a risk taking charismatic one who will not be easy to replace though many may try.

BRUCE HOFFMAN, RAND CORPORATION: I think there are probably doubtless indeed many others out there who are likely going to be inspired and motivated by Zarqawi's example and will seek to be the next Zarqawi.

ENSOR: Last year in a letter captured by U.S. intelligence, Al Qaeda's number two Ayman Al-Zawahiri urged Zarqawi to stop the public beheadings, to stop killing so many innocent Muslims. Yet Osama Bin Laden and Zawahiri publicly embraced his bloody rein of terror. Will they be sorry to lose him?

HOFFMAN: I suspect that with the exception of President Bush and Prime Minister Al Maliki, the two figures in the world that are the happiest about Zarqawi's demise, would precisely be Laden and Al Zawahiri because Zarqawi's long been a competitor to them, a rival.

ENSOR: And he has been more effective in recent years than Bin Laden, U.S. officials say, at attracting would-be Jihadists in the Middle East and Europe.

DANIEL BENJAMIN, CO-AUTHOR, "THE NEXT ATTACK": He has done a pretty efficient job of building up the next network after Al Qaeda.

ENSOR: That next network could be homegrown would-be terrorists in Europe or in the United States, inspired by Zarqawi or Bin Laden. No one is counting that out. David Ensor, CNN, Washington.


COOPER: Coming up CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen is joining us. He literally wrote the book about Osama Bin Laden, perhaps the most comprehensive look at Osama Bin Laden, "The Osama Bin Laden I Know." We'll talk to Peter about what happens next for Bin Laden and whether we're likely to hear from the reclusive terrorist about the death of Abu Musab Al Zarqawi. We'll also talk to chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour and we'll devote our second hour to Zarqawi's death. Could this be the beginning or the end of terror in Iraq or at least a change in the nature of that terror when 360 continues.


COOPER: The man who wrote a remarkable book about Osama Bin Laden, "The Osama Bin Laden I Know," Peter Bergen, CNN's terrorism analyst joins us now from Zurich and in London CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour. Again thanks for joining us. Peter what was it about Abu Musab Al Zarqawi that attracted people? He was virtually illiterate, never graduated high school. I read a quote from a guy who was in jail with Zarqawi who said he didn't have great ideas but people listened to him because they feared him. Was that just it? What was his appeal?

BERGEN: Well his appeal in prison was precisely that. He kind of created himself as sort of a prison boss in a way and took those leadership skills and seemed to have applied them to his terrorist network. But I think you know one of the points I think we need to make here is that Abu Musab Al Zarqawi is a guy without any ideological legacy. Other than his attacking the Shia, whereas Bin Laden is a guy who has a sort of semi coherent world view which he has spread all around the world. You know, get the United States out of the Middle East, destroy Israel, get India out of Cashmere, get the Russians out of Chechnya. And I think that Bin Laden and Ayman Al Zawahiri his number two, obviously you'll have an ideological legacy that's going to survive them. In a way that's not true of Zarqawi.

COOPER: Interesting. Christiane, in 2004 Osama Bin Laden called Zarqawi the prince of Al Qaeda in Iraq. How much control really did Bin Laden have over Zarqawi or was there any control there at all?

AMANPOUR: Well it's hard to tell, both obviously benefit from the association. But I think one of the key points is that Zarqawi essentially was fortunate that there was an American invasion of Iraq. That created the ready pool of recruits who came from all over the Arab world, the worldwide global Jihadists to come to Iraq and earn their military martyrdom or other kind of ribbons, their version of medals in battle.

So that's the real magnet and Zarqawi was able to exploit the arrival of those foreign forces. And you know he was just such a personified, the really violent side of that terrorism, the public beheadings, the wave of kidnappings, the massive suicide bombings that we've talked about, the whole notion of the roadside bomb and the big car bombs. The roadside bomb is peculiar and particular too Iraq. And I think that he's really been able to exploit the fact that all of these people have been willing to come this generation of Jihadists see Iraq as their magnet and they've been willing to come there and he's used them.

COOPER: Peter Bergen there are those who say that the U.S. sort of created this mythic Abu Musab Al Zarqawi that you know, and that there were very political and strategic reasons for doing that. It sort of put a foreign face on this insurgency and that suited their end. So you think there's truth in that?

BERGEN: I think that "The Washington Post" reported that it was a U.S. military policy to keep pointing out that Zarqawi's foreigner, a Jordanian and to sort of pin him as the face of the insurgency. That being said, his group was very effective or has been very effective. So I think the notion that he's sort of a -- simply a mythical creature of the United States, I think that's very overblown.

COOPER: And though his attacks were only 10 percent as you pointed out earlier, they were the deadliest attacks. I mean, responsible for probably more deaths than just about anybody.

BERGEN: Yeah. The attack on the Jordanian embassy got Middle Eastern diplomats to pull out the attack on the United Nations, got the U.N. to pull out the attacks in Najaf and Samara basically started the civil war. These were the attacks that have actually changed the strategic reality on the ground in Iraq.

COOPER: Peter Bergen, Christiane Amanpour, thank you very much. Ahead, more on how Al Zarqawi's death came to be, exactly how the U.S. got him. Details on the operation and the impact on the troops and reaction from a key critic of the war, Congressman John Murtha. What does he say about this now? Does Zarqawi's death change his mind about what to do from here on out? All that and more, when this special edition of "360", taking out a terrorist continues.


COOPER: Thanks for joining us in this special edition of 360, "Taking Out a Terrorist." How Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, the most wanted killer in Iraq finally make his fate.


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