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Autopsy outlines al-Zarqawi's death


BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi survived catastrophic internal injuries and bone fractures for nearly an hour after his safe house was struck last week by two 500-pound bombs, according to autopsy results provided yesterday by the U.S. military.

Concussive blast waves from the U.S. airstrike caused massive hemorrhaging in his body and ruptured his lungs, causing his death, the report said.

Despite those devastating injuries, al-Zarqawi was still fading in and out of consciousness when U.S. forces arrived at the shattered house near Baqouba less than 30 minutes after the bombing. Medics attempted to clear his airway and re-establish his failing pulse, but he died 52 minutes after the initial blast, the autopsy indicated.

Sheik Abdel Rashid Rahman, the spiritual adviser who unwittingly led U.S. forces to al-Zarqawi, was believed to have died immediately of injuries that included shrapnel wounds and a skull fracture that might have been caused by shrapnel or being catapulted against a hard surface.

U.S. officials said both men were identified through DNA tests.

Army Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, a military spokesman in Iraq, said that between Saturday and yesterday, U.S. and Iraqi forces had conducted 140 operations nationwide, of which 11 were driven by intelligence gleaned after the attack on al-Zarqawi. American officials have said they found a "treasure trove" of information about al-Qaida in Iraq amid the ruins of the house. Raids driven by that information were focused within eight miles of Baghdad, Caldwell said.

U.S. and Iraqi troops killed 32 suspected insurgents and detained 178, including a "high-value" individual who carried a $50,000 bounty, Caldwell said. U.S. officials declined to identify the person, but the general said an Iraqi tipster helped American troops make the arrest.

He also confirmed that U.S. troops had inadvertently killed two boys - a 6-month-old and a 6-year-old - when American soldiers engaged in a battle with suspected insurgents in Baqouba, near where al-Zarqawi was killed last week. U.S. forces killed suspected insurgents and detained one man. The insurgents were on top of a building and fired on U.S. servicemen, Caldwell said.

Iraqi army Brig. Gen. Qassim Musawi said many of the U.S.-led raids relied on intelligence gathered before the attack on al-Zarqawi. He said at least three Iraqi army divisions participated in the operations in Baghdad and Baqouba.

A recent increase in U.S. military activity in the western city of Ramadi was unrelated to al-Zarqawi's death, Caldwell said, and was planned before the airstrike against the insurgent leader.

Caldwell denied that a large-scale U.S. offensive was taking place in Ramadi, but acknowledged that American troops were conducting "intensified operations" to prepare the way for Iraqi police and army units. Ramadi is one of Iraq's most violent cities and has been the scene of several large-scale insurgent attacks against recruits for the Iraqi police and army.

Also yesterday, a militant Islamic Web site announced that the leadership council of al-Qaida in Iraq had chosen a new leader, Sheik Abu Hamza, also known as al muhajir, or "the immigrant." U.S. officials said last week that they expected a shadowy operative known as Abu Ayyub Masri to take the reins of the organization.

Solomon Moore writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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