Troops React to Zarqawi Death - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

06/08/06

Troops React to Zarqawi Death

Abu Musab al Zarqawi Abu Musab al Zarqawi

A major victory for US and coalition forces in Iraq. They killed al Qaeda leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi in a late-night bombing. The attack targeted a Zarqawi safe house in Diyala, about 30 miles northeast of Baghdad and just east of Baquba. F-16's dropped two 500-pound precision-guided bombs on the house, reducing it to rubble.

The blast killed Zarqawi and five of his lieutenants. US forces positively identified Zarqawi through fingerprints, tattoos and scars.

"I congratulate our troops," said President Bush. "Zarqawi is dead, but difficult and treacherous times continue. The terrorists will carry on without Zarqawi and sectarian violence will continue. The ideology of terror has lost one of its most violent and aggressive leaders. Our forces have dealt a severe blow to al Qaeda and struck a major victory in the global war on terror."

The Jordanian-born terrorist began as a freedom fighter, battling the Russians in Afghanistan. During the war in Iraq, Zarqawi led the insurgency responsible for thousands of deaths, many of them Americans. The US had put a $25 million bounty on his head.

WTOC talked with some soldiers who had been in Iraq to find out what they are saying about this latest strike in the war on terror. They are quietly optimistic, but not ready to claim victory yet. The soldiers we talked with who served in Iraq say, just because Zarqawi is gone doesn't mean the insurgency will die with him.

"Even though he's dead, there will be someone else to step up and take his place," said Staff Sgt. Ross Sevlie.

He's a member of the 48th Brigade, 1/118th Battalion, which just returned home from Iraq. He says this will help the peace process, but it won't change people's minds about the reconstruction.

"If we can get the economy working again, get the average person in Iraq to make enough money to feed his family, to put clothes on his children's backs, and to live his life, to have that option, then the insurgency won't be able to last," Sevlie said.

"When you cut off the head, what does the rest of the body do?" said Sgt. Joseph Barrack. "It dies."

Sgt. Barrack spent four tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. He believes Zarqawi's death signals a major victory for US forces. "The influence he had with the terrorist network over there and the connections he had with al Qaeda across the world, it's going to be a major blow."

And Barrack has firsthand knowledge of what a big capture or killing does to boost the spirits of American troops. He was in Iraq when Saddam Hussein's sons, Uday and Qusay Hussein, were killed. "It helps with morale with the troops, helps you know something's being accomplished by you being over there," he said. "It means we're winning the war, and granted the end isn't going to be too soon, but it's a major step. It's why we're over there, liberating that way, bringing democracy to Iraq."

Barrack says that the soldiers currently in Iraq were probably told about al Zarqawi's death this morning, and they crowded around a computer just like the rest of America to see the pictures and get more information about what happened.

Reported by: Andrew Davis, andrewdavis@wtoc.com

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