Zarqawi Shot in Lung
Insurgents said Wednesday in interviews and statements on the Internet that the leader of the group al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab Zarqawi, was struggling with a gunshot wound to the lung. One of Zarqawi's commanders said the Jordanian guerrilla was receiving oxygen, heightening suspicion that the groundwork was being laid for an announcement of his replacement or death. In the volatile western province of Anbar, meanwhile, U.S. Marines clashed with gunmen in their second major offensive there this month. A combined U.S. and Iraqi force of roughly 1,000 troops killed 10 insurgents as it began a sweep of Haditha, the U.S. military said. The offensive followed an increase in insurgent attacks on Marines posted at a dam near that small city, 125 miles northwest of Baghdad. Insurgent leader Abu Musab Zarqawi was reportedly wounded in an ambush over the weekend. Among the 10 dead fighters was a man identified by residents as a cleric who was shot as he fired on troops with an AK-47 assault rifle, the U.S. military said in a statement. On the second day of reporting about Zarqawi's condition, insurgents offered no tangible evidence that he had suffered a potentially fatal wound. Some of Zarqawi's rank-and-file fighters and one of his top lieutenants have said he was wounded in an ambush by U.S. Marines and Iraqi forces over the weekend around the western city of Ramadi. A U.S. military official, Lt. Col. David Lapan, said Wednesday that he had found no record of such an ambush. The insurgents' accounts suggested that steady U.S. and Iraqi military pressure was taking a toll on Zarqawi's group. In an interview Tuesday, the Zarqawi lieutenant, Abu Karrar, said his group was weighing both foreigners and Iraqis as possible successors to Zarqawi if he died. Zarqawi has a $25 million bounty on his head, and he is the United States' most-wanted man in Iraq. He is blamed for instigating many of the beheadings, suicide bombings and other deadly insurgent attacks. U.S. and Iraqi forces say they have captured or killed about two dozen top-ranking members of Zarqawi's network in recent months.
Insurgent leader Abu Musab Zarqawi was reportedly wounded in an ambush over the weekend.