Autopsy Finds Zarqawi Took 52 Minutes To Die
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
BAGHDAD, Iraq – A medic spent about 20 minutes trying to save Abu Musab al-Zarqawi even as blood ran from the terrorist’s mouth after the air strike that mortally wounded him, the American military said yesterday.
But the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq was not wearing the suicide belt he vowed to use if American soldiers ever caught him.
Seeking to dispel allegations that Zarqawi was beaten or shot while in American custody, Major General William Caldwell said an autopsy performed Saturday proved the Jordanian-born militant died of “massive internal injuries” that were consistent with a blast caused by the two 500-pound bombs dropped on his hideout.
“A coalition medic treated Zarqawi while he did lapse in and out of consciousness,” General Caldwell said at a news conference in Baghdad. “The medic secured his airway, at which point Zarqawi expelled blood.” He said the medic “noted the breathing was shallow and labored.”
Colonel Steve Jones, command surgeon for Multinational Forces, said DNA tests done by the FBI positively identified Zarqawi.
The cause of death was listed as “primary blast injury of the lung,” with blast waves from the two bombs causing bruising and bleeding of the organs. Zarqawi suffered multiple bruises, scratches, and deep head wounds, and Colonel Jones found no evidence he had been beaten or shot. X-rays also showed a fracture of his right lower leg.
Zarqawi was overweight, a medical examiner said, but General Caldwell declined to provide other personal characteristics. He also would not say whether any drugs were found in the militant’s body; officials said toxicology results would be released later.
“All the injuries found were consistent with the type seen in blast victims,” Jones said. “The abrasions, lacerations and the fracture were likely due to flying debris, or Zarqawi being thrown against a hard object by the force of the blast.”
American officials previously had said Zarqawi mumbled and tried to roll off a stretcher before dying at the bombed house outside Baqouba, about 35 miles northeast of Baghdad.
The military presented the details of Zarqawi’s death amid confusion over events leading up to it and a claim by a witness that American troops beat the terror mastermind to death.
An Iraqi man identified only as Mohammed told AP Television News and the Washington Post that he saw American soldiers after the airstrike beating an injured man until blood flowed from his nose. He said the man resembled Zarqawi. It was not clear if he mistook first-aid procedures for a beating.