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American Forces Press Service

Zarqawi Probably Alive, Ground Forces Commander Says

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 22, 2005 The commander of ground forces in Iraq said today he has "absolutely no reason to believe" that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was among those killed during a Nov. 19 raid in Mosul, Iraq.

"It is possible, but I have no reason to believe it," Army Lt. Gen. John R. Vines, commander of Multinational Corps Iraq and the U.S. Army's 18th Airborne Corps, told Pentagon reporters during a videoconference from Iraq.

Relatives of Zarqawi, the Jordan-born leader of the al Qaeda in Iraq organization, have donated DNA that's in a database and can be compared against that of those killed in Mosul, Vines confirmed.

"So my expectation is, if he had been in one of those houses that were part of the objective, we could confirm that," he said.

Meanwhile, the coalition continues following up on every lead in its hunt for Zarqawi, Vines told reporters.

Fueling the intensity of the search is recent evidence that Zarqawi has no qualms about killing and there's no doubt he will kill again, the general said.

"Zarqawi has shown absolutely no remorse about killing his fellow Jordanians, by claiming credit for attacks on a wedding party, for goodness sakes," Vines said. He's also shown no remorse about killing his fellow Muslims, he said.

"He will attack mosques and assemblies, and certainly he will slaughter security forces of Iraq and the coalition, if given the chance," Vines said. "So we follow up relentlessly every lead."

As that effort continues, Operation Steel Curtain has progressed steadily in helping root out terrorists throughout Iraq's Qaim region, Vines reported.

"We believe that we've accomplished the vast majority of what needs to be done, he said. The focus has now turned to repairing damages inflicted by the insurgents and during combat operations there, he said.

All indications show that Steel Curtain has been a success, he said.

The area is not the sanctuary foreign fighters had hoped to make it. A large portion of the foreign fighters' and terrorists' leadership is dead. And the region no longer provides a clear avenue through the Euphrates River Valley for terrorists to move into Hadithah, Hit, Ramadi and Fallujah, and on toward Baghdad, he said.

"And so we believe that there has been a great deal of success there," Vines said.

U.S. military officials in Iraq reported later in the day after Vines' briefing that the operation had concluded.

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