Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, whom the U.S. Government claimed was al-Qaeda's leader in Iraq, has been killed by American forces near Baquba. According to the military briefing, Zarqawi was killed by bombs dropped by American F-16s. An eyewitness, however, maintained that a firefight occurred in or around Zarqawi's safe house before the bombs were dropped. Furthermore, a photo of Zarqawi's face showed remarkably little trauma for someone whose house had been targeted by two 500-pound bombs.
More important than how Zarqawi died is what difference his death will make. Here's Juan Cole's assessment:
There is no evidence of operational links between [Zarqawi's] Salafi Jihadis in Iraq and the real al-Qaeda; it was just a sort of branding that suited everyone, including the US. Official US spokesmen have all along over-estimated his importance. Leaders are significant and not always easily replaced. But Zarqawi has in my view has been less important than local Iraqi leaders and groups. I don't expect the guerrilla war to subside any time soon.
Even Donald Rumsfeld acknowledged that Zarqawi's death would not end the insurgency: "Given the nature of the terrorist networks, really a network of networks, the death of Zarqawi, while enormously important, will not mean the end of all violence in that country."
Meanwhile, in a poll conducted immediately before the announcement of Zarqawi's death, President Bush's handling of the war in Iraq was given its lowest approval rating yet.