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Al-Zarqawi killed by blast injuries, autopsy shows

Col. Steve Jones describes findings of autopsy on Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.


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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Blast injuries killed terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi after a coalition airstrike hit his safe house, the U.S. military said Monday.

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

There was no evidence that al-Zarqawi was beaten or shot, Jones said.

Jones spoke at a news briefing in Baghdad on the results of autopsies conducted on al-Zarqawi and Sheik Abdul-Rahman, his spiritual adviser, by forensic pathologists from the Defense Department. (Watch for the specifics on getting the body and his injuries -- 2:49)

Al-Zarqawi was positively identified through DNA testing, the U.S. military said.

"The FBI returned the results to us and there was a positive match by DNA that this was Zarqawi," Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, spokesman for Multi-National Forces-Iraq, told reporters.

The first bomb fell on the safe house at 6:12 p.m. local time on June 7 and coalition personnel were on the scene at about 6:40 p.m., he said.

A medic arriving at the site treated al-Zarqawi as he lapsed in and out of consciousness, his breathing labored and shallow, his airway expelling blood, Caldwell said.

His pulse was "barely palpable and quickly deteriorated," he said. By 7:04 p.m., al-Zarqawi was dead, Caldwell said.

"The personal threat of Zarqawi is eliminated," he said. "He was treated better in death than he treated others in life."

Caldwell said he hoped that the autopsy results would serve to counter misinformation and propaganda regarding al-Zarqawi.

"We have clear evidence that he died of blast injuries. There is no evidence to suggest that he was beaten, and I have no reason to suspect that that happened," Jones said.

Five others died in the airstrike, including Abdul-Rahman, whose injuries were more severe than al-Zarqawi's, Jones reported.

Abdul-Rahman suffered head wounds and lacerations to his head, body, arms and legs, and his death was instantaneous, Jones said.

The total casualties in the strike included three males and three females; one of the females was a child between the ages of 5 and 7, he said Saturday. The bodies of the three females were taken to a local hospital, Caldwell said.

Two military medical examiners were flown in Friday night and Saturday to conduct the autopsies on al-Zarqawi, the leader of the terrorist group al Qaeda in Iraq, and Abdul-Rahman, said Caldwell.

They followed standard procedures, Jones said, and "Throughout the process, all personnel have treated these remains with the same high degree of dignity and respect that we treat our own casualties."

Al-Zarqawi had initially been reported to have died instantly when an Air Force F-16 dropped two 500-pound bombs on the safe house near Baquba where he was meeting with associates.

Caldwell said Friday that al-Zarqawi mumbled something unintelligible and tried to turn away, possibly off the stretcher, before being resecured to it and dying.

Discussions are under way with the Iraqi government as to what will be done with the remains of al-Zarqawi and Abdul-Rahman.

Also on Monday, Islamist Web sites reported that a successor has been named to al-Zarqawi.

The Web sites identified the successor as Sheikh Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, which means "the immigrant," implying he -- like the Jordanian al-Zarqawi -- is not Iraqi.

CNN has not been able to authenticate the claim.

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