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Profile: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head of the terrorist group that called itself al-Qaida in Iraq, began his life of violence as a petty criminal in his native Jordan.

He was born in 1966 under the name Ahmed Fadhil Nazzal al-Kahlayleh in the town of Zarqa, Jordan. He went to Afghanistan in the 1980s to fight against Soviet occupation forces.

After the Soviets abandoned Afghanistan, Zarqawi returned home and began leading a campaign to overthrow the Jordanian royal family. He was sentenced to a 15-year prison sentence in 1996, but was released three years later under an amnesty. He returned to Afghanistan and forged ties with al-Qaida terrorist network leader Osama bin Laden.

Some time after being wounded during the U.S.-led war that toppled the ruling Taleban in 2001, Zarqawi fled to Iraq, where he formed the insurgent group that carried out a string of suicide bombings, kidnappings and beheadings of foreign hostages. After the group merged with al Qaida, a statement by bin Laden anointed him as his deputy in Iraq in December 2004.

Zarqawi's group was also blamed for several terrorist attacks outside Iraq's borders, including the 2002 assassination of a U.S. diplomat in the Jordanian capital city of Amman. He also claimed responsibility for last November's suicide bombings of three hotels in Amman that killed 60 people.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.