This item is available under a Creative Commons License for non-commercial use only
Wednesday’s precision air strike on Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his spiritual advisor Sheik al-Rahman appears to have been the result of a combined Iraqi and US intelligence effort. A US special-forces team - ‘Task Force 145’ - acting on a tip-off from Iraqi sources, is said to have identified Zarqawi’s safe house 8 km north of Baquba early on Wednesday afternoon. ‘Task Force 145’ - under the direction of US Joint Special Forces Command - is a unit whose sole mission is to locate and neutralise ‘high-value’ or ‘VIP’ insurgent targets within Iraq. The unit is believed to be co-located alongside 101st Airborne units at Balad Airbase in the US Multinational Division North area of operations outside of Baghdad. It is believed that leaders of the main insurgency groups in the so-called ‘Sunni Triangle’ – predominantly Baath’ist loyalists – were incensed by recent mass killings of fellow Iraqi Sunni Muslims by fanatical foreign ‘jihadis’ loyal to Al Qaeda and Zarqawi. In response, it is believed that details of a pre-arranged meeting between Zarqawi and his spiritual advisor al-Rahman were leaked to US forces. It is also claimed that Jordanian intelligence corroborated the Iraqi tip-off, helping to further locate Zarqawi’s ‘safe-house’ through analysis of a propaganda film released by Zarqawi in April of this year. Task Force 145, relying on this fast-moving combination of intelligence and timing would have been very conscious of previous attempts by US forces to eliminate prominent high profile targets by air-strike. In the early hours of March 20th 2003, the invasion of Iraq began with an intelligence-driven attempt to ‘decapitate’ the Iraqi regime by means of a combined cruise-missile and 2000lb bomb attack on one of Saddam’s ‘safe-houses’. The attack – which was highly ‘time-sensitive’ or simply stated, late - failed to kill Saddam but flattened a large area of down-town Baghdad.
Clonan, T., 2004: US Missile Strikes On High Value Targets: Zarqawi, Dublin: The Irish Times.