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Iraqis Get Full Cabinet; Forces Hunting Zarqawi Get Their Man

I'm Steve Ember with IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

On Thursday, Iraqi and American officials announced the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The leader of al-Qaida in Iraq is blamed for hundreds of deaths in bombings there and his native Jordan. And officials say he personally cut off the heads of some Western hostages in Iraq.

American planes dropped two bombs on a house in northern Iraq on Wednesday evening. Each bomb weighed two hundred twenty-five kilograms. Officials say the airstrike also killed his spiritual adviser, Sheikh Abdul-Rahman, and four other people.

On Friday a top military official, Major General William Caldwell, provided more details about the operation:

When American troops joined Iraqi security forces at the house, Abu al-Zarqawi was badly wounded but still alive for a short time. He tried to move off a medical-aid stretcher and, just before he died, spoke something that could not be understood.

The United States offered twenty-five million dollars to find him.

President Bush says special operation forces acted on information and intelligence from Iraqis. He called Abu al-Zarqawi "the operational commander of the terrorist movement in Iraq." He described the death as "a severe blow to al-Qaida" and "a victory in the global war on terror."

The president said it also represents a chance for Iraq's new government to, in his words, "turn the tide of this struggle."

Hours after the killing, Iraq's Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced the final appointments to his cabinet. Parliament approved the nominations and the three new members immediately took office.

The appointments ended a long dispute among Iraq’s religious groups about who should hold the positions. The new defense minister is a Sunni Arab. The interior minister and the minister of state for national security are Shiites.

These three men are seen as highly important to the government as it seeks to take control of security in Iraq within eighteen months.

President Bush meets with his top advisers on Monday to discuss, as he put it, "the way forward in Iraq." They will meet at the presidential home at Camp David, Maryland. American diplomats and military commanders in Iraq will provide reports about recent political, economic and security changes.

On Tuesday, Iraq's new ambassador to the United States will join them. They will hold a teleconference with Iraq's prime minister and members of his cabinet.

Mister Maliki says anyone who looks to take Abu al-Zarqawi’s place in trying to incite violence between Sunnis and Shiites will be killed. Still, no one expects his death to end the violence in Iraq. British Prime Minster Tony Blair warned of even more attacks by insurgents, in answer to the killing.

IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English was written by Nancy Steinbach. Read and listen to our reports at I’m Steve Ember.