Iraq's most-wanted terrorist leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, has been killed north of Baghdad in a joint operation by U.S. and Iraqi forces.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced Zarqawi's death at a news conference in the Iraqi capital, broadcast live around the world. Standing with Mr. Maliki were General George Casey, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad.
Reporters and the Iraqi and American officials in the room burst into applause when Mr. Maliki announced that "Zarqawi was eliminated."
The prime minister said seven of Zarqawi's associates died with him late Wednesday in a "safe house" near the city of Baquba, northeast of Baghdad.
General Casey said Zarqawi was holding a meeting as a U.S. air strike began. Ground forces on the scene immediately afterwards identified Zarqawi through his fingerprints and known scars, as well as "facial recognition."
General Casey said the operation to hunt down Zarqawi began about two weeks ago.
Zarqawi was responsible for thousands of killings, Ambassador Khalilzad said, so his removal marks a great success for Iraq and the global war on terror.
The Jordanian-born terrorist mastermind led the "al-Qaida in Iraq" group on a bloody campaign of suicide bombings, kidnappings and beheading of hostages across Iraq. The United States had offered a $25 million reward for his capture.
Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.