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25 February 2004

Terrorist Bomb Suspect Killed by Coalition Forces

Defense Department Report, February 24: Iraq Operations

Washington -- Coalition forces have killed an explosives expert believed to be a top aide to Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi, the Islamic militant suspected of orchestrating the August bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Iraq, U.S. officials of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) said February 24.

According to Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of operations, Combined Joint Task Force 7, civil affairs soldiers passing out leaflets were fired upon when they knocked on the door of the house where Abu Muhammed Hamza was living in Habbaniya, about 50 miles west of Baghdad. Hamza, who possessed a Jordanian passport, was killed when the soldiers returned fire, he said. Upon entering the house, the unit discovered "a large quantity of bomb-making materials, explosives and electronic components, pro-Saddam literature" and pictures of Zarqawi, he said. The incident happened February 19.

The coalition renewed its offer of a $10 million reward for the capture of Zarqawi, who has ties to Osama bin Laden and the al-Qa'ida organization and is believed to be building a terrorist network within Iraq, working with the group Ansar al-Islam. Zarqawi is a Palestinian from Jordan.

Asked to respond to the previous day's statement by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan that direct elections could take place in Iraq by early 2005, Dan Senor, senior advisor to CPA, said the United States agrees that direct elections should take place as soon as possible. "[T]he June 30 sovereignty handover date must remain fully intact. We feel quite strongly about that," he said.

Senor also said that he has every indication the Iraq Governing Council will meet the February 28 deadline for producing an interim constitution. The handover of ministries to Iraqi authority is also progressing at a rapid pace, with the Ministry of Health ready to become one of the first to make that transition, he noted.

"It is important to keep in mind that June 30 is not this magical date [on] which the coalition just ... disappears. That's not the case at all. June 30 is the date at which we hand over sovereignty, we hand over political authority to the Iraqis to run their own country, to govern their own county; but ... much of the operation that we've built up here will be in place as part of a U.S. mission. It will be the largest U.S. embassy in the world," Senor said.

"We will still have a large presence here. We will still continue to work hand in hand with the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government on the reconstruction of their country. They will be making the political decisions, but we will still be here, in a very strong support mechanism, on the civilian side," he explained.

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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