The U.S. military says it has conducted dozens of raids in Iraq following the death of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. A military spokesman says the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq initially survived an air strike, but died from his wounds shortly after coalition troops arrived on the scene.
U.S. military spokesman Major General William Caldwell says nearly 40 raids have been conducted in Iraq, with some directly related to information gathered after Zarqawi's death.
In a briefing for reporters at the Pentagon from his post in Baghdad, General Caldwell said coalition troops found suicide belts, automatic weapons, Iraqi Army uniforms and other military gear.
The raids follow the death of Zarqawi, who died from his wounds after a U.S. warplane dropped two bombs on a house near Baqouba, northeast of Baghdad.
Caldwell says the first people to arrive on the scene were Iraqi police, who put a gravely, wounded Zarqawi onto a stretcher.
"Coalition forces arrived immediately thereafter, on site," he said. "They immediately went to the person in the stretcher. They were able to start to identify him by some distinguishing marks on his body. They had some kind of visual, facial recognition. According to the person on the ground, Zarqawi attempted to sort of turn away off the stretcher. Everybody re-secured him back on to the stretcher, but he died almost immediately thereafter from the wounds he had received from this air strike."
General Caldwell says the latest information indicates two other men and three women died in the air strike.
He says military officials believe an Egyptian-born man, Abu al-Masri, will likely replace Zarqawi as the head of al-Qaida in Iraq.
"We know that he and Zarqawi met each other at the al-Farouq training camp in Afghanistan, probably sometime in the early 2001, 2002 time period," he said. "We know that al-Masri came to Iraq before Zarqawi did, probably located somewhere around the Baghdad area. Sometime around 2003 he established probably the first al-Qaida in Iraq cell here in the Baghdad area and that they continued a very close relationship since that time."
The Jordanian-born Zarqawi personally led a bloody campaign of suicide bombings, beheadings and other killings and was the most-wanted terrorist in Iraq.