- The Washington Times - Friday, June 9, 2006

1:53 p.m.

BAGHDAD — A mortally wounded Abu Musab Zarqawi was still alive and mumbling after American air strikes on his hideout and tried to get off a stretcher when he became aware of U.S. troops at the scene, a top military official said today.

Also, U.S. troops conducted 39 raids late yesterday and early today based on information gleaned from searches in the hours after the al Qaeda leader’s death. Fearing that insurgents would seek revenge, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki imposed driving bans in Baghdad and the restive Diyala province, where the terrorist was killed.

Zarqawi could barely speak when Iraqi police arrived at the scene of Wednesday’s attack.

“He mumbled something, but it was indistinguishable, and it was very short,” U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said at a press conference.

U.S. and Polish forces arrived intending to provide unspecified medical treatment, and Zarqawi was put on a stretcher, Gen. Caldwell said. The terrorist “attempted to sort of turn away off the stretcher; everybody reached to insert him back. … He died a short time later from the wounds suffered during the air strike.

“We did, in fact, see him alive,” he said. “There was some sort of movement he had on the stretcher, and he did die a short time later.”

Gen. Caldwell said the U.S. military was still compiling details of the air strike, including the exact amount of time Zarqawi was alive afterward. He said an initial analysis of Zarqawi’s body was done but that he was not certain it constituted a full autopsy.

In an interview earlier with Fox News, Gen. Caldwell was more descriptive of Zarqawi’s actions before he died.

“He was conscious initially, according to the U.S. forces that physically saw him,” Gen. Caldwell told Fox. “He obviously had some kind of visual recognition of who they were because he attempted to roll off the stretcher, as I am told, and get away, realizing it was U.S. military.”

At the press conference, the spokesman also provided a revised death toll from the attack.

Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, had said four persons, including a woman and a child, had been killed with Zarqawi and Sheik Abdul Rahman, the terrorist’s spiritual consultant.

Gen. Caldwell said it now appears there was no child among those killed. He cautioned that some facts were still being sorted out but said three women and three men, including Zarqawi, were killed.

Pentagon officials have refused to say whether U.S. special operations forces participated in the Zarqawi operation Wednesday, but a comment today by President Bush suggested that some of the military’s most secretive units may have been involved on the ground.

Speaking to reporters, Mr. Bush mentioned that among the senior officers he called to offer congratulations for killing Zarqawi was Army Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of Joint Special Operations Command, whose forces include the Army’s clandestine counterterrorism unit, Delta Force.

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