WASHINGTON, June 8, 2006 - The death of terrorist leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi is a victory in the war on terror and is an opportunity for the Iraqi government to turn the tide of the struggle with insurgents, President Bush said here today.
U.S. officials confirmed earlier today that Zarqawi died in a coalition military strike north of Baghdad yesterday evening. Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commander of Multinational Force Iraq, announced Zarqawi's death during a press conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad today.
"Zarqawi has met his end, and this violent man will never murder again," Bush said from the White House. "Iraqis can be justly proud of their new government and its early steps to improve their security."
Zarqawi was the operational commander of the terrorist operations in Iraq and was responsible for car bombings, assassinations and suicide attacks that took the lives of many American servicemembers and thousands of innocent Iraqis, Bush said. Zarqawi personally beheaded American hostages and other civilians in Iraq, masterminded the destruction of the U. N. headquarters in Baghdad, and was responsible for the assassination of an American diplomat in Jordan and the bombing of a hotel in Amman, he said.
"Through his every action, he sought to defeat America and our coalition partners, and turn Iraq into a safe haven from which al Qaeda could wage its war on our free nations," he said. "To achieve these ends, he worked to divide Iraqis and incite civil war."
Coalition and Iraqi forces have worked tirelessly to catch Zarqawi through years of near misses and false leads, and have displayed courage and professionalism while pursuing the "brutal terrorist," Bush said.
"Last night, their persistence and determination were rewarded," he said. "On behalf of all Americans, I congratulate our troops on this remarkable achievement."
Although Zarqawi is dead, the difficult mission in Iraq continues and Americans can expect more sectarian violence, Bush said. But the terrorist movement has lost one of its most visible leaders, and Zarqawi's death gives the Iraqi government an opportunity to make progress against insurgents, he said.
With Zarqawi's death and the completion of Cabinet assignments - to include the ministers of defense and interior - announced early this morning by Maliki, Iraq is ready to move forward toward its goals of reconciliation, reconstruction and an end to violence, Bush said.
Maliki is determined to defeat the terrorists and bring the rule of law to Iraqi people, and he will have the full support of the U.S. as he moves forward, Bush said.
The president said he will meet with his national security team and other key members of his Cabinet June 12 to discuss recent changes in the political, economic and security situations in Iraq. On June 13, Iraq's new ambassador to the U.S. will meet with the Bush administration team and will participate in a teleconference with Maliki and his Cabinet to talk about the way forward in Iraq, he said.
"Together we will discuss how to best deploy America's resources in Iraq, and achieve our shared goal of an Iraq that can govern itself, defend itself and sustain itself," Bush said.
"We have tough days ahead of us in Iraq that will require the continued patience of the American people. Yet the developments of the last 24 hours give us renewed confidence in the final outcome of this struggle, the defeat of terrorism threats, and a more peaceful world for our children and grandchildren."