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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Taking Out a Terrorist: The Death of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi; The Takedown; What's Next for Iraq?; Boost for the Troops?; Impact on Iraq; A Turning Point?; The Making of a Terrorist; Life After Zarqawi
Aired June 8, 2006 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: ...became the leader of the bloody insurgency.
And if this man was the prince of al Qaeda, then bin Laden is the king. Why is it taking so long to hunt him down?
Tonight, the special edition of ANDERSON COOPER 360, "Taking out a Terrorist: The death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi." Reporting live from Boston, here's Anderson Cooper.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, tonight the man with perhaps more Iraqi and American and Jordanian blood on his hands than any other single person is dead.
He was Iraq's most wanted, the leader of al Qaeda in the region. The man whose suicide bombers and kidnappers and butchers helped make Iraq sadly what it is today. Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- now the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
All the angles tonight starting with his takedown. Here's CNN's Jamie McIntyre.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It was late afternoon and two U.S. Air Force F-16 Cs like these were on routine patrol over Iraq when their radios crackled with urgent new orders.
The pilots were vectored to Baquba and given coordinates for a single isolated house nestled in a palm and fig grove eight clicks to the north.
At 6:15 p.m., one of the F-16s dropped two 500-pound bombs, one laser guided the other satellite guided, after being told to make sure to take out the house in a way that would ensure an HBT, a high value target inside would be killed.
MAJOR GENERAL WILLIAM CALDWELL, SPOKESMAN, MULTINATIONAL FORCES, IRAQ: We had absolutely no doubt whatsoever that Zarqawi was in the house. It was 100 percent confirmation.
MCINTYRE: Why so sure? Pentagon sources say members of a covert special operations unit charged with finding Zarqawi had the house surrounded and knew his every move.
An informant had led the U.S. Zarqawi's spiritual adviser. And an unmanned spy plane tracked him to the safe house and to Zarqawi. The U.S. commandos then surrounded the house.
Because Zarqawi was essentially trapped, the F-16s were told to take their time, that the house was not in the words of one air force commander, a time sensitive target. That commander says the rubble tells the story of why two 500-pound bombs were needed.
The safe house was a solidly built structure made of reinforced concrete. The second bomb was to ensure the blast killed anyone inside the building.
At least six people were killed including Zarqawi. The man described as his spiritual adviser, and a woman and child, possibly family members.
GENERAL GEORGE CASEY, MULTINATIONAL FORCE COMMANDER, IRAQ: We have been able to identify al-Zarqawi through fingerprint verification, facial recognition and known scars.
MCINTYRE: As soon as that was confirmed, U.S. and Iraqi forces raided 17 locations in and around Baghdad that had been under surveillance for weeks.
CALDWELL: And those 17 raids last night a tremendous amount of information intelligence was collected and is presently being exploited and utilized for further use. It was -- I mean, it was a treasure trove.
MCINTYRE (on camera): Intelligence is the key to finding an individual in a country the size of Iraq. And General George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, says tips and intelligence from senior leaders in Zarqawi's network led to his demise.
Jamie McIntyre, CNN, the Pentagon.
COOPER: And of course, if that is true, it is certainly a major development in this story.
Earlier tonight samples taken from the bombing scene arrived for DNA analysis at the FBI's crime lab in Quantico, Virginia. That's the bag with the DNA inside. The testing is expected to take about two days -- and not that there's really any reason for doubt, according to the military.
The question now, the impact of Zarqawi's death and what comes next.
CNN John Roberts is looking to that side of the story. He joins me now from New York -- John.
JOHN ROBERTS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, good evening, Anderson. When the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced to the world that Zarqawi was dead, at his side was Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. Khalilzad was instrumental in helping to write the Iraqi constitution and put together its unity government. I spoke with him earlier today about what lies ahead.
ROBERTS: Ambassador Khalilzad, thanks very much for joining us from Baghdad today.
First question to you, what do you think Zarqawi's demise, what kind of effect might it have on the level of violence in Iraq? The White House has cautioned that while this is progress, the violence could still continue. Do you see this as any kind of a turning point?
ZALMAY KHALILZAD, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: I think it is a major opportunity because al-Zarqawi was the leader of the terrorist organization that sought a sectarian war. He had a network of organizations both inside and outside Iraq that brought in volunteers and money.
So his demise is a positive development for Iraq and a negative development for those who want Iraq to fail.
But the change in the level of violence is not going to be immediate. There are going to be difficult days ahead. There are lots of forces involved in violence.
ROBERTS: Mr. Ambassador, do you expect that the level of violence might actually increase as the remnants of al Qaeda in Iraq try to reassert their presence?
KHALILZAD: It's possible that in the immediate future either they could escalate or lie low in response to what happened. The Iraqi government is concerned about that.
Particularly, they worry about car bomb attacks tomorrow after the Friday prayers. So they're considering imposing a ban on driving cars into Baghdad and Baquba for a few hours between 11:00 and 3:00 tomorrow.
ROBERTS: Mr. Ambassador, is there anything to be said for the idea that Zarqawi's demise may be more significant for its symbolism than its operational impact. Al Qaeda in Iraq has been reduced significantly in terms of its contributions to the insurgency in recent months. By some counts, it only accounts for 10 percent of the number of attacks in Iraq now.
KHALILZAD: I think that Zarqawi's role was increasing in recent weeks and days. As some people, Saddamists were joining him, people with greater skills. As the Sunni insurgency was fragmenting with some joining the political process, some staying in a wait and see attitude and others joining Zarqawi. So I believe his demise, given his role, given his charisma, given his star power, given his ability to raise money and keep various organizations together and his size with al Qaeda international, this is a significant setback for the organization.
But one should not exaggerate. There will be continued terrorist violence and insurgent violence and sectarian violence in Iraq in the coming period.
ROBERTS: Zarqawi's location was given by the former supporters of his. Ambassador Khalilzad, where did he go wrong with those supporters? And I'm wondering, did that recent video in which the U.S. military showed these outtakes which were not very flattering of Zarqawi have anything to do with this?
KHALILZAD: Well, I think what happened was that we captured some of his lieutenants, and they in turn provided information that led our people to Zarqawi.
ROBERTS: And as you mentioned, Ambassador, he was given up by captured members of al Qaeda. Does that mean that the $25 million reward still goes wanted?
KHALILZAD: It does. But it will no longer be necessary.
ROBERTS: Khalilzad also said that Zarqawi's body remains in the custody of the U.S. military while further tests are run on his identity at the FBI crime lab out in Quantico. Khalilzad also did not know if Zarqawi's body would be released for burial in either Iraq or his native Jordan -- Anderson.
COOPER: And as we know, as we saw earlier tonight, he still has relatives in Zarqa, in the town -- in Jordan where he was born. So we'll see what happens.
John, thanks. Fascinating interview.
Focusing more closely now on where this exactly takes the war, where it leaves the American mission and the effect, if any, on the insurgency.
We're joined by Retired Major General and CNN Analyst Don Shepperd.
General, good to see you.
First of all, just a technical question. When you look at those bombs zeroing in on the target, we're told that U.S. Special Forces were surrounding it. Were those laser-guided bombs? And are those the kinds of things that have to be -- the lasers are directed from the ground onto the target?
MAJOR GENERAL DON SHEPPERD, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: No, Anderson. Jamie McIntyre reported that one of the bombs was a satellite-assisted joint direct attack munition, a JDAM bomb, 500-pound bomb. He reported the second bomb was a laser-guided bomb. The laser designator can be carried by the aircraft dropping the bomb or it can be carried by the second aircraft in a flight, another aircraft in the flight, or it can also be a laser designation from the ground. But I'm fairly certain that the designation came from the aircraft dropping the bomb. COOPER: What do you think this tells us about the quality of intelligence that the U.S. and I guess Iraqi forces are now able to get? U.S. General William Caldwell said that there was no doubt whatsoever that Zarqawi was at this safe house. It seems like, whether it was from these captured lieutenants of his or not, it seems they get pretty good intel on this.
SHEPPERD: Yes, several important things about this intelligence. First of all, in my visits there, I zeroed in asked, are you going to get this guy or not? I was told, we're going to get him. We've come very close. I was convinced after listening to people, just like they were after Saddam, they were going to get Zarqawi. You don't get the same feeling with bin Laden.
But on the other hand, they say that tips are increasing all the time. The problem is vetting the tips. This operation was planned for a long period of time. To get organized, to launch 17 raids right after the main strike. It says that the U.S. and Iraqi security forces are increasing in capability, able to work together and, most important, able to keep a secret so that leaks don't allow the terrorists to run.
COOPER: How much -- I mean, this guy was public enemy number one, especially for the U.S. forces in Iraq. How much does his death actually free up resources to go after other aspects of this insurgency?
SHEPPERD: Oh, I think it frees them up considerably. A lot of resources went into looking for Zarqawi. Most important, though, if the Ambassador Khalilzad was correct, the 17 raids in the other locations basically turning over a treasure trove of information. Those resources will go after that treasure trove, if you will. So there's a lot of people with Xs on their back that we're going to be after as a result of this strike, is my opinion.
COOPER: Well, it will be interesting and important to see where the hunt goes next.
Major General Don Shepperd, always good to have you. Thanks.
SHEPPERD: A pleasure.
COOPER: Zarqawi was not part of the Pentagon deck of playing cards of the 55 most wanted in Iraq. Remember the playing cards? But progress is also being made on that front. Here's the raw data:
Forty-two members of Saddam Hussein's regime featured on those cards have been taken into custody since the war began. Two have been killed. They were Saddam's sons, Qusay and Uday. Eleven of the most wanted, however, are still at large.
It was the news that the White House was hoping for, certainly. The most wanted terrorist in Iraq gone. We'll take a look at the political impact for this president and for our country.
Also tonight, Zarqawi's path from a school dropout to a man who slit the throats of Americans. He once used to drink. He used to hardly follow Islam at all. We'll show you the life and the death of a terror mastermind.
And later, from a potential successor to his legacy. The future of al Qaeda and Iraq. That and more when 360 continues.
Zarqawi's bounty at time of death: $25 million.
Osama bin Laden's current bounty: $25 million.
Rewards for Justice Program.
COOPER: Well, of course, one of the big questions about the deaths of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is, what effect is it going to have on those who are calling for an immediate pullout of U.S. forces from Iraq? Most notably, Democratic Congressman John Murtha. Earlier, John Roberts spoke with the congressman.
John joins us now -- John.
ROBERTS: Anderson, while he has been highly critical of White House and Pentagon policy in Iraq, today Democratic Congressman John Murtha had nothing but praise for the military operation to get Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
He has not wavered, however, from his overall position that it is time to start planning to bring U.S. troops out of Iraq. I spoke with the congressman earlier tonight.
ROBERTS: Congressman Murtha, thanks for being with us. Always a pleasure to talk to you, sir.
REP. JOHN MURTHA (D), PENNSYLVANIA: Good to be on the show.
ROBERTS: Do you see this as a turning point in Iraq or a potential turning point? What do you think the result of Zarqawi's death is going to be?
MURTHA: I think it's significant. But also, I think that the way it was handled was significant. It was Iraqi intelligence coming to the Iraqis and then coming to the U.S. forces. And the U.S. forces in coordination with Iraqi forces went in and took him out. I think that's the important part of it.
And the other significant thing that happened today that got lost in this, is the interior minister and defense minister. So, I think it's a significant day. Now is it a turning point? Certainly not.
This is a very small part of the opposition. We're caught in a civil war, and there's no way to overlook that. Casualties have increased in the last six months. Incidents have increased. We just have to wait and see if this will have a significant impact on the number of casualties and the amount of money we're having to spend in Iraq.
ROBERTS: When you say that it's a significant day, exactly how significant do you think Zarqawi's death is?
MURTHA: I've been saying this over and over again, that al Qaeda is a very small portion of the opposition that we're facing in Iraq. There are about 1,000 people or less. They keep telling me -- the CIA keeps telling me, probably even less than that. So, al Qaeda is a very small part. It's a civil war with 100,000 Shias and 20,000 Sunnis. So that's what we really are facing and we're caught in between this civil war.
That's why I say the only people who can solve this are the Iraqis, and our troops have become the target. So this is significant, but the most significant part is that the intelligence came from the Iraqis to our forces.
Now, this could have happened from outside. People say, well, you see, we stayed there. No, this was from the air, two bombs were dropped. So there's no question -- from an F-16. So there's no question about this, it could have happened from outside.
ROBERTS: You mentioned, Congressman Murtha, that another significant development today was the appointment of a defense and interior minister. Let me quote what you said this morning in a press release. You said, "With the appointment of Defense and Interior Ministers, we should be able to substantially reduce our presence in Iraq and re-deploy our military outside of the country."
The question I have is that this appears to be a successful example of perseverance by the U.S. military in getting Zarqawi. It seems to represent a pretty good level of cooperation with the Iraqi intelligence, the Iraqi forces, in getting him. They're making headway. So with that in mind, is this the appropriate time to be talking about pulling troops out?
MURTHA: Yes, I think it is. I think the Iraqis have to take over this operation. The reason I say that, 67 percent of the people that are killed in Iraq are coming from explosive devices. So we're the target of those explosive devices. They know the impact that it has. Al Qaeda wants us there because it helps them recruit people.
ROBERTS: Congressman, I want to ask you about a new development in the Haditha investigation. CNN, yesterday reported that we had seen some photographs that were taken soon after the deaths of 24 Iraqi civilians. Some of the photographs showed that some Iraqi civilians had been shot inside their homes at close range. What do you make of that new evidence? MURTHA: Well, I think that they're still doing the investigation. I've said from everything I heard, it's a tragic event and these troops are so stressed and they sometimes crack. And I'm afraid that's what happened in this case.
ROBERTS: Congressman, do you still stand by your assertion that it appears as though Marines killed Iraqi civilians quote, "in cold blood"?
MURTHA: Oh, there's no question about it. From the earlier reports that I got -- that's why the commandant went over there, to talk to the troops and to make sure they understand you have to try to protect noncombatants. Our whole mission is to try to win Iraqis to our side, win the hearts and minds. When something like this happens, it sets us back terribly.
ROBERTS: Murtha has been roundly criticized for his comments about Haditha. And he is taking heat today over Zarqawi from critics who say, if we had listened to John Murtha about pulling out troops, we would have never gotten Zarqawi -- Anderson.
COOPER: And as he said in your interview, he would disagree with that, saying well, the attack came from the air, we could have done that from outside the country. I don't think the two sides are going to agree.
From Capitol Hill to the White House and the upcoming November elections, the politics of Zarqawi's death, coming up. But first, we'll talk to David Gergen about that.
But first, Thomas Roberts from "HEADLINE NEWS," has some of the other stories we're following tonight -- Thomas.
THOMAS ROBERTS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi Anderson.
New concern over Iran's nuclear program tonight. Iran started a new round of uranium enrichment just as six world powers, including the U.S., offered incentives for it to suspend its program. According to a new U.N. report, the machines were turned on Tuesday. Iran has said it will seriously consider the diplomatic effort.
Here in the U.S., a Tennessee man called himself a sick animal when he confessed to killing a Clemson University student. Jerry Buck Inman has returned to South Carolina to face charges of murder, rape and kidnapping. He told police that he strangled the student with her own bikini top.
On Capitol Hill, after weeks of negotiations, Senate and House Republican leaders have agreed to a nearly $95 billion spending package to pay for the war in Iraq and hurricane relief in Louisiana and the other Gulf states. The bill is expected to get approval from Congress next week, and then get the president's signature. Dropped from that bill, however, money for a controversial proposal first reported on CNN by Sean Callebs. Senators Thad Cochran and Trent Lott from Mississippi, had wanted $700 million to move a railroad in their state. Critics have described the defeated proposal as a railroad to nowhere.
And in southern Japan, a volcano eruption like no other. Smoke and ash climbed more than 3,000 feet into the air. No reports of damage or injuries on this one.
But I don't know who got out the yardstick to figure out 3,000 feet, but that's pretty massive. Anderson, back to you.
COOPER: Yes, unbelievable. Thomas, thanks.
T. ROBERTS: You're welcome.
COOPER: Talking up the politics of Zarqawi's death next. It was a good day for the president, no doubt about it. But it is in November when it may matter the most. The potential impact at the polls, Former Presidential Adviser David Gergen also helps us sort out facts from fiction.
Also tonight, the creation of a mass murderer. How -- this guy who was basically a smalltime crook, became the leader of the insurgency, or at least the symbolic leader of the Iraqi insurgency. All that and more when 360 continues.
Zarqawi's reign of terror.
Suspected link to: 342 deaths, 4 beheadings.
COOPER: President Bush made it clear today the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi will not stop the violence in Iraq and that there are more tough days ahead.
At the same time, some may see this as a huge turning point, not just for the war but for this president.
CNN's Candy Crowley takes a look at that angle.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Wanted terrorist in Iraq.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There have not been many days like this.
BUSH: Zarqawi's death is a severe blow to al Qaeda. It's a victory in the global war on terror.
CROWLEY: No one argued the point, not the Democratic congressman who wants an immediate U.S. withdrawal...
MURTHA: We want a military victory in this thing.
CROWLEY: ...nor the Democratic Senator who wants to split up Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good news, there's a special place in hell reserved for him.
CROWLEY: After months of spiraling poll numbers and ever glummer election prospects for his party, the president picked up a clear win.
Like the day Baghdad fell, or Saddam Hussein was caught, or the first Iraqi election was held.
Clear victories have a way of fading against the landscape of a brutal war. After three years, he knows that.
BUSH: We can expect the sectarian violence to continue. Yet the ideology of terror has lost one of its most visible and aggressive leaders.
CROWLEY: Well schooled now in the mercurial nature of both war and voters, most politicians acted with similar caution and only short-term hope.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: And maybe some of our friends who want to cut and run out of Iraq maybe can feel a little comforted that our mission is showing some success.
CROWLEY: Republican Congressman Chris Shays is in a tough re- election battle in large part because of his support for the war.
REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), COMMITTEE ON HOMELAND SECURITY: A turning point, possibly. I mean, the first turning point was when we formed a government in Iraq in June. That was a turning point. The three elections were a turning point, added momentum. The training of troops, where 40 percent now is controlled by the Iraqis. I guess I would say it just adds momentum to our cause and slows down the other side.
CROWLEY: The truth is, though it's been a good moment, John Murtha still thinks the troops should be redeployed out of Iraq.
Joe Biden still thinks the country ought to be partitioned into three different nations. Most voters still oppose the war.
It may be that Zarqawi's death will give the president and his Iraq policy a few points bump up in the polls. Not enough to really get up off the map, maybe enough to buy some time.
BUSH: We have tough days ahead of us in Iraq. That will require the continued patience of the American people. CROWLEY: A little more time is about all he can hope for now. Zarqawi's death will matter in November only if it ultimately means fewer deaths for the U.S. military and innocent Iraqis.
Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.
COOPER: Former Presidential Adviser David Gergen joins me now to talk about the politics of all this.
David, thanks for being with us, first of all. As Candy talked about it, I mean, there have been clear victories, there have been turning points before. Politically, in this country for this president, does today matter?
DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Sure. This is a team that hadn't been able to catch a break and finally they're getting some. I think the biggest thing about getting Zarqawi is that it begins to restore a sense of confidence in the Bush administration that has been crumbling recently.
And now here in the last couple of weeks they brought in a heavyweight Hank Paulson to run the Treasury Department. Now they have a big news breakthrough and major victory in Iraq really to go get Zarqawi. But does it rebuild the confidence in the government? Of course not. It took a long time for the president to get down in the low 30s, for all of this to deteriorate. It's going to take a long time to climb back out.
And very importantly until now, there had been so many false dawns, there had been so many turning points that just sort -- we went in circles, not real turns. That's why I think that so many are interpreting this in a cautious way. Let's wait and see. American politics, just like politics in Iraq, let's wait and see on both sides.
COOPER: Interesting though, a recent poll said that even if Osama bin Laden was captured -- Osama bin Laden, Bush's approval ratings would not really improve. Given that, I mean, can this really even have a little bit of a bump in the polls?
GERGEN: I think he's got to get a little bump just on the question of confidence. By the way, Anderson, he's been inching up a little bit in the last couple of weeks. So I think he'll get a little bump out of this. Everything depends on what happens on the politics on the ground and the violence on the ground in Iraq now.
What he has done is the administration looks more confident. And you hear a guy like John McCain getting out there now. They've got a better argument to undermine those who say, let's get out. And it leaves the Democrats for the moment mute. They can't respond to this very well.
If we see more violence in the next few weeks, as many analysts believe we will, things are going to get back to where they were. So this is very significant, very helpful to the president. He was smart today not to dance on the grave of Zarqawi. He didn't come out there in a jubilant way, no mission accomplished.
He was very smart, I think, to let the Iraqis announce it first because he knows what's important right now is not his politics back here. What's important to George W. Bush is making sure the new prime minister and his politics in Iraq get better.
COOPER: Well, I thought it was -- I think your point is right and it's very interesting that you contrast his tone, his tenor today in this speech that we just saw, parts of it, with you know, some of the rhetoric earlier on which -- in this war, which he has already said. I mean just the other day with Prime Minister Blair from Britain, he said, you know, he regretted some of that sort of gung ho jingoistic rhetoric.
Do you think this president has learned from that?
GERGEN: Yes, he's clearly learning. And I think he's got people -- he's got a better team around him now who is also -- who are encouraging this more mature attitude. I think the president himself has learned.
But the other thing is, Anderson, it's really late. This has taken a long, long time to get Zarqawi. You know, the sectarian anger in Iraq is huge. And people may not -- they're not going to just stop killing each other because they got this Jordanian. There are a lot of Iraqis angry with each other.
So, I think had this happened a year or two ago, it's like everything else we've been talking about in the last couple months. The good news for the president in many ways is good news, but it's coming so late. It's very hard to turn around Iraq and very hard to turn around the politics.
COOPER: I was watching the White House press conference today and there was a lot of talk about this big meeting that they're going to have at Camp David next week, all the presidential's top advisers. Is that for real? Or is that just -- I mean, when you're sitting around in the White House and you say, well look, we got to look like we're doing something on Iraq. Well, we'll have a big meeting with all our advisers and we'll tell the press it's a big meeting. Does it mean anything?
GERGEN: Well, you know what it is, Anderson, I think, it's a substitution for going out and giving speeches. Speeches weren't working. The president's going around the country, you know, people were turning it off, they were hitting the mute button. So they come up with a new way. You know, it's getting a lot of press attention. CNN will be there in force on Monday and getting whatever pictures. We'll all talk about it. But the truth is, it's really a way to bolster both sides, bolster the Iraqi government.
What George W. Bush is looking to do now is a way to build up the Iraqi government at home, look after their politics and also buy time and on his own place until the Iraqi thing turns around. COOPER: Interesting. David Gergen, thanks. I appreciate it.
GERGEN: Thank you.
COOPER: Back in Jordan, growing up, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was a young punk with a dim future. Some people even said he burgled the homes. Some people even said he killed someone early on. Coming up, how he transformed himself into a terror leader and a symbol to be reckoned with.
Also, what comes next in al Qaeda and on the ground in Iraq? A lot of questions in the wake of Zarqawi's death. We'll get some answers from two people who know this story and this insurgency better than just about anyone.
All that ahead on this special edition of 360.
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
Born "Ahmed al Khalayleh."
Re-named himself after his hometown, "Zarqa"
Source: Council on Foreign Relations.
COOPER: Well, terrorists are made, they're not born. And Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was no exception. To understand how this young man became one of the worst of the bad guys, you have to dig deep into his past, starting in Jordan where he grew up, the country he wanted to overthrow the government of.
That is exactly what CNN's Nic Robertson did. He went back to Zarqawi's hometown and what he found is fascinating. Take a look.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Iraq, May 2004.
American Nick Berg is about to be beheaded. His execution recorded and released on a website titled "Abu Musab al- Zarqawi Slaughters an American." Its barbarity rockets Zarqawi from relative obscurity to front page familiarity. It was the deadliest insurgent in Iraq.
Born Ahmed Fadil Al-Khalayleh, he later took his nom de guerre, Zarqawi, from the name of his hometown, Zarqa. It looks pretty from a distance. But up close, it is different, crammed by successive waves of Palestinian refugees, one of the poorest towns in the country.
(On camera): With its densely packed housing and intense tribal loyalty, Zarqa has been compared to the Bronx. But others liken it down at heal working class neighborhoods to Detroit. For Zarqawi, though, it was a place of limited opportunity.
(Voice-over): Outside the house where he was born in October 1966, neighbors say they remember the family well.
UNKNOWN MALE (through translator): They were a simple people. They lived a simple life. They barely made it.
ROBERTSON: His father fought against the Israelis in 1948 and was well respected before he died. In this picture at the time, the young Zarqawi looks unremarkable, but seems determined to earn respect like his father.
UNKNOWN MALE (through translator): If someone would even harm his neighbors, Zarqawi would always come to defend the victim. He always did good deeds, nothing wrong.
ROBERTSON: His days were spent here in Zarqa school. But by all accounts, he didn't excel academically.
(On camera): Zarqawi left school before his final exams, disappointing his parents. He didn't seem to have a career in mind and his father tried to fix him up with a job at the local municipality.
That was 1982. Zarqawi was about 16, developing a reputation as a tough guy who, against Muslim custom, drank and got a tattoo.
Outside his old mosque, I tracked down his brother-in-law, hoping he can tell me more.
(On camera): Excuse me, sir. Can we talk to you about Abu Musab, your brother- in-law? Is that possible? You know nothing? You don't want to say?
He's not unfriendly, just unwilling to talk.
One man I find who will talk says he knew Zarqawi's father and was Imam, or preacher, to both father and son.
UNKNOWN MALE: I know him exactly, and the first time when he was a child, he no good.
ROBERTSON: Was his father angry with his son?
UNKNOWN MALE: Yes, so angry. Last time he told me there is no good road for me. Only I kill him.
ROBERTSON: To kill his son?
UNKNOWN MALE: To kill his son, yes.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): Zarqawi was out of control. No one here can tell me more. But as I am to find out later, he was about to have a life changing experience. At that time in 1989, the U.S. backed Mujahidin were on the verge of driving the Soviet army out of Afghanistan. Thousands of Arabs, including Osama bin Laden, were in the fight. Zarqawi decided to join them.
In these rare pictures taken soon after he arrived, Zarqawi is seen relaxing, mixing happily with other Jihadists or Muslim holy warriors. He'd arrived as the Jihad was ending.
Much of what he did in Afghanistan is unknown. There are conflicting accounts of whether or not he met Osama bin Laden.
General Ali Shukri was a military and intelligence adviser to Jordan's King Hussein and knows Zarqawi's case file.
GENERAL ALI SHUKRI: He decided to join the fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan. He was trained there. He became a bomb expert.
ROBERTSON: Zarqawi left Afghanistan in 1992. He came back to Jordan with new friends, ideas and an agenda.
COOPER: Well what happened next landed Zarqawi in a Jordanian prison and set him on a path to become the most feared insurgent in Iraq. Nic's report continues in a moment.
Also, from Zarqawi's past to the future, what will the insurgency in Iraq look like without Zarqawi in the picture? And is it really a loss or actually a gain for Osama bin Laden?
All that's ahead on 360.
COOPER: We are retracing the life of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Nic Robertson, literally taking us back to the hometown of Zarqawi.
We pick up now in 1992 when Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was just returning to Jordan from Afghanistan. And Afghanistan that first time really had changed him. But even more changes were to come.
Here again is CNN's Nic Robertson.
ROBERTSON: Zarqawi returned to Jordan in 1992.
SHUKRI: And he started to plan attacks against visitors, tourists coming into Jordan. He managed to create his own unit. All the time under the auspices of al Qaeda, but disengaged from al Qaeda.
ROBERTSON: In 1994, Zarqawi was arrested and jailed for possession of explosives and plotting against the Jordanian kingdom. Swaqa jail had a relatively liberal regime. Prisoners could work on the farm, in the work shops or kitchen. Zarqawi exploited the system.
UNKNOWN MALE: He told the officer of the jail, "you can't touch anybody from my group. You can't touch him because you are infidels, and we are believers."
ROBERTSON (on camera): So the prison authorities couldn't control him?
UNKNOWN MALE: No. Nobody can control him.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): It was the same in court.
UNKNOWN MALE, (through translator): He used to give orders to his followers with his eyes, meaning don't talk. Another sign is when he said, God is great. Then they would repeat it after him. If he prayed, they would do so following him. If he read the Koran, they would read it after him.
ROBERTSON: But what turned Zarqawi, one time hard man, into this radical Muslim? Sheikh Esmat (ph), a political dissident who also found God, thinks he knows the answer. He was close to Zarqawi in prison.
According to Esmat, Zarqawi found God before he went to Afghanistan, after waking from a drunken stupor and looking for a purpose.
SHEIKH ESMAT (ph): He was drink, throw up, and when he wake up, said to himself, "what happened? Why I like this? Why I drink?"
ROBERTSON: He became a devout Muslim.
ESMAT: In the prison, he finishing the Koran.
ROBERTSON (on camera): He finished learning the Koran?
ESMAT: Yes, not learning...
ESMAT: Yes, memorizing, yes.
ROBERTSON (voice-over): In 1999 he was released, benefiting from the newly enthroned King Abdullah's pardon for all political prisoners. Returning to his wife and four children in this house in Zarqa, he lacked work, missed his followers and was confused.
UNKNOWN MALE: His sister went to him. She knows that he is very sad. She tells him, "remember the vision. God wants you to be a Mujahid." It's a dream.
ROBERTSON: He followed her vision and headed back to his Jihadi roots in Afghanistan, setting up a training camp in the west of the country far from bin Laden. Arabs from Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, close to his home, came for his specialized classes in bomb-making.
Following the September 11th attacks, Zarqawi's camp was bombed. He fled west.
According to U.S. officials, he turned up in a Jihadi camp belonging to a group called Answer Al Islam (ph), located in Kurdish controlled Northern Iraq.
By late 2002, he was on the attack. Jordanian officials linked Zarqawi to the assassination in Amman of a U.S.A. ID Official Lawrence Foley.
In 2003, Zarqawi was dealt the al Qaeda link to Saddam Hussein.
COLIN POWELL: Iraq today harbors a deadly terrorist network headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an associate, collaborator of Osama bin Laden.
ROBERTSON: Powell also said he was a Palestinian who'd lost a leg. Both details untrue.
In August 2003, a suicide bomber destroyed the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, killing a top diplomat and more than 20 others.
LT. GEN. JAMES "SPIDER" MARKS, FMR. U.S. ARMY INTELLIGENCE: That is probably the inflection point where we began to realize we're in the midst of an insurgency.
ROBERTSON: Zarqawi claimed responsibility for the U.N. bombing. More bloody attacks in Zarqawi's name followed, targeting not just U.S. troops, but Iraqi security forces and Iraq's majority Shiite population. His web-posted exploits rapidly propelling him to the most popular insurgent among the newly emerging radical Jihadists like himself.
He is also the most wanted insurgent, by now worrying about being caught.
In a letter to bin Laden he sounds worried. Eyes are everywhere, he says. Later and more confident, he calls for bin Laden's blessing and gets it.
UNKNOWN MALE: Dear Mujahid brother, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is the prince of al Qaeda in Iraq. So we ask all our organizations' brethren to listen to him and obey him and his good deeds.
DR. MARC SAGEMAN, CHIEF OF AFGHAN OPERATIONS: There are definitely some major differences between Zarqawi and bin Laden. Zarqawi is very much a part of the new generation, the new leadership of this whole social movement. The new leadership is far more aggressive than the old leadership.
ROBERTSON: Now, with Zarqawi gone, will the insurgency take a less violent turn?
(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: Well, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Osama bin Laden and Ahman al-Zawahiri have long been the top targets on the war on terror -- the worst really of the bad guys.
This weekend CNN explores how these three men rose to power on "CNN Presents: The World's Most wanted." That's this Saturday and Sunday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.
And at the end of what has been really a momentous day, no one can say for certain what the future holds, but there are things to watch for. We'll get some insight from CNN Terrorism Analyst Peter Bergen and "TIME Magazine's" Baghdad Bureau Chief and a new CNN Correspondent Michael Ware, when this special edition of 360 continues.
COOPER: Well, with each passing hour, the focus shifts further away from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's demise, and more toward exactly what lies ahead.
And perhaps no one can offer a more informed opinion about both aspects than Journalist Michael Ware, "TIME Magazine's" Baghdad bureau chief and a new member of CNN. He's in Brisbane, Australia; and in Zurich, Switzerland, CNN Terrorism Analyst Peter Bergen.
I spoke to both men earlier.
COOPER: What does it tell us -- I mean, if it's true that insiders gave up Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to U.S. forces, what does that tell us about what is going on inside this insurgency? Why would insurgents give up one of their own?
MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's been a very uncomfortable fit for many within the insurgency to have Zarqawi in such a leading role and carrying out such vicious attacks. There's been a lot of debate about the worth of his methods.
There's also power plays that need to be considered. I mean, this is to some degree we've seen turf wars. So the fact that there's friction is absolutely nothing new. And it's the very thing that U.S. military intelligence has been seeking to capitalize on from the beginning.
COOPER: Peter Bergen, in a new article in "The Atlantic Online," I was just reading about Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Someone was quoted as saying that he was a symbol of the insurgency, but he was really never its leader, that only about 10 percent -- he might have had the most brutal attacks, but only about 10 percent of insurgent attacks were really directly related to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. So how significant really is his death?
PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, the 10 percent were actually the most important attacks because they were the kind of the major suicide operations that got the United Nations to withdraw, that sparked the incipient civil war that got every international aid organization pretty much to pull out.
So even though there was a limited number of attacks and the group, the foreign fighters only account for say, 1,500 to 2,000 at any given moment in Iraq, and there's a much large Iraqi insurgency, it's the foreign fighters that have been doing the suicide operations. Only 10 percent of the suicide operations are Iraqi.
COOPER: Is there someone else waiting in the wings to take over al Qaeda in Iraq for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi?
WARE: Well, there's a number of candidates, both foreign and Iraqi. So this is going to be the real litmus test for the al Qaeda in Iraq organization. The real question is, will it be an Iraqi? I mean, there's been so much pressure for that to happen. And that could have immediate consequence on the use of al Qaeda tactics and their targeting methods.
It will also impact on the degree of coordination between al Qaeda and the homegrown Iraqi groups. It's much simpler for Iraqis to be dealing with other Iraqis, perhaps even former military comrades.
So there is a number of people -- and don't forget, al Qaeda has shown an extraordinary ability to replenish and regenerate each time it's been disrupted. Yet, it has to be said this will be a significant disruption. Let's see how they come back.
COOPER: Michael, in this article in "The Atlantic Monthly," Mary Anne Weaver talks to a lot of people who are suggesting kind of the U.S. made Abu Musab al-Zarqawi into a bigger player than he really was, for a variety of reasons, political and strategic. Do you think that's true?
WARE: Well, there certainly has been that put about for a couple of years now. And also may have been political or military propaganda advantage into putting a face on the boogeyman facing the Americans in Iraq, I don't think it can be disputed that despite the relatively small size of his forces and the relatively small number of attacks of these 500, 600 odd a month that take place in Iraq, Zarqawi's influence went far beyond the proportions of his organization.
He was able to take the public momentum of the insurgency, and within the Jihad community globally, he was able to seize the stage. He drew attention to himself and made a superstar of himself.
COOPER: Michael Ware and Peter Bergen from earlier tonight.
We'll have more of 360 coming up. Stay with us.
COOPER: Well, tomorrow on "AMERICAN MORNING," gas prices still rising. But believe it or not, some folks are actually happy about it. Spikes in prices at the pump, creating a demand for gasoline alternatives like ethanol. "AMERICAN MORNING" series, "Paying the Price in the Heartland," looks into it tomorrow, starting at 6:00 a.m.
Thanks very much for watching.
"LARRY KING" is next. One of his guests tonight, Michael Berg, who's son was beheaded allegedly by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, himself.
See you tomorrow.
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