Last Updated: 9/12/06

Al-Qaeda in Iraq Names New Head
BBC News
June 12, 2006

Al-Qaeda in Iraq has named a successor to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, days after he was killed in a US air strike.

Abu Hamza al-Muhajir is "knowledgeable" and has a history of fighting a holy war, said an internet message on a site used by Islamic militants.

But observers say little is known about him - the name could be a pseudonym.

The news came as US military officials said Zarqawi had died from injuries consistent with the results of a bomb.

Questions had arisen over how he had died after the Americans revealed he had still been alive following the bombing of a safe house by US planes on Wednesday.

Click here to see the location of the attack on Zarqawi

In other developments:

* The US military in Iraq says its aircraft killed nine people in an attack on a "terrorist cell", but witnesses say the dead are civilians

* At least 10 people are killed and many more injured in two car bomb attacks on markets in Baghdad

* US President George W Bush is holding two days of discussions with military officials and diplomats for what his advisers say is a crucial reassessment of the war in Iraq.


The statement from al-Qaeda in Iraq said its council had "unanimously agreed" on the choice.

Muhajir is "a good brother, has a history in jihad [holy war] and is knowledgeable", the message said.

"We ask God that he... continue what Sheikh Abu Musab began," it added.

Muhajir was not among the names al-Qaeda analysts had expected as a probable successor, and is believed to be a pseudonym.

Analysts say the name al-Muhajir - which is Arabic for immigrant - suggests he is not Iraqi.

The group has been quick to declare their operations will continue despite the loss of their exceptionally violent leader, the BBC's security correspondent Frank Gardner says.

Zarqawi was accused of leading the rash of kidnappings and beheadings of foreign workers.

Our correspondent says military analysts will be now watching to see if al-Qaeda in Iraq continues its campaign against Shia Muslims - or focuses its attacks more narrowly to broaden support among Iraqis.

Zarqawi autopsy

Zarqawi and five others were killed after US planes dropped two 500lb (230kg) bombs on a safe house near the city of Baquba on Wednesday.

Bombed buildings where Abu Musab Zarqawi said to have been killed
The US said Zarqawi did not die instantly in the bombing

Giving the first details of Zarqawi's autopsy, US military doctor Steve Jones told reporters the cause of death was a blast injury to the lungs.

DNA analysis had confirmed the corpse was Zarqawi's and it bore "no evidence of beating or any firearm injuries", he added.

Major General William Caldwell said they administered medical help to the mortally wounded Zarqawi, who had taken nearly an hour to die after the strike.

US military officials have denied widely reported eyewitness allegations suggesting Zarqawi had been beaten by US soldiers before his death.

The US had earlier announced Zarqawi did not survive the air strike, which they said came after tip-offs from his organisation.

(c) BBC News

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