BAGHDAD — Abu Musab Zarqawi, leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, was killed by a U.S. airstrike early this morning in the town of Hibhib near Baqubah, said Hussein Maliki, a spokesman for Prime Minister Nouri Maliki.
The spokesman said Zarqawi, blamed for leading a relentless campaign of suicide bombings and beheadings, was severely injured in the attack and later died. Iraqi forces were the first to discover his body, Hussein Maliki said, and were able to identify him using pictures and fingerprints.
Seven other people were also killed in the blast, including two women.
At a news conference shortly after news of the death broke, it was confirmed by Army Gen. George W. Casey, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, and Prime Minister Maliki.
"Today, Zarqawi was eliminated," the prime minister said.
Nouri Maliki said the attack on Zarqawi was the result of intelligence reports provided to Iraqi security forces by residents in the area, and U.S. forces acted on the information.
The United States had offered a $25-million reward for Zarqawi's death or capture.
The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, said that "the death of Abu Musab Zarqawi is a huge success for Iraq and the international war on terror."