US Military: Zarqawi Died of Blast Injuries



U.S. military doctors now say militant leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi lived for nearly an hour after his hideout was torn apart by two precision-guided 500 pound bombs. The latest details on the terrorist leader's death were released with the results of an autopsy that was performed on him.

The U.S. military says DNA results have confirmed that the man killed in the air strike was Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

The command surgeon for U.S. forces in Iraq, Col. Steve Jones, said Zarqawi died 52 minutes after the first bomb struck his hideout.

"The injuries to his lungs were not survivable. That's what killed him," Col. Jones said.

Jones said there was no evidence of beatings or gunshot wounds.

Coalition spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell says Zarqawi survived the initial blasts, and was treated by a U.S. military medic who arrived on the scene with coalition troops 28 minutes later.

"The medical care was provided there on the scene," he said. "The medic determined very early on in the process, after clearing his airway and having, as the report reads, quite a bit of blood come out from his lungs, that his... carotid pulse was such that he was not going to live. I mean, it was very evident that he had extremely massive internal injuries, but they continued to provide medical care for him on the site at that point."

U.S. military officials say six people were killed in the air strike, including Zarqawi and his spiritual advisor, a man known as Sheikh Abdel-Rahman.

A medical examiner who was not identified and spoke to reporters by telephone said Abdel-Rahman was killed instantly and was apparently very close to the blast.

"I believe that Sheikh Abdel-Rahman was thrown against the wall or something because his head injury was the most devastating injury," he said. "The skull was fractured badly."

The officials said they have not identified the other four people who were killed in the blasts, including three women. They said their bodies have been turned over to Iraqi authorities.

Jones said Abdel-Rahman's shrapnel wounds were more severe than Zarqawi's but it appears that both men were inside the building when the bomb struck. He said Zarqawi died of "primary blast injury," meaning the pressure from the explosion literally tore apart his lungs and eardrums.

"Because Zarqawi died from primary blast injury, he must have been in an enclosed space where the peak pressure of the blast was magnified," he said. "That is how we know he was inside the house when he was hit."

In a message posted on the Internet, al-Qaida in Iraq has announced Zarqawi's replacement. The militant group said it has appointed Sheikh Abu Hamza al-Muhajer to take their dead leader's place. The statement called him a "pious brother with a history of jihad and a strong scholarly background."

Little is known about him, and the group did not give his nationality, but the word "Muhajer" means "immigrant" in Arabic.

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