Z-man flees Iraq

Sunday Times of London:

IRAQ’S most wanted terrorist has fled the country for emergency surgery after an American airstrike left him with shrapnel lodged in his chest, according to a senior insurgent commander in close contact with his group.

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who has a $25m bounty on his head after being blamed for suicide bombings, assassinations and the beheadings of western hostages — including Ken Bigley, the Liverpool engineer — is now believed to be in Iran.

He has suffered from bouts of high fever since being wounded by a missile that struck his convoy three weeks ago as he fled an American offensive near the town of al-Qaim in northwestern Iraq, the commander said.

His condition late last week was described as stable, but supporters were said to be preparing to move him to another “non-Arab” country for an operation to remove the shrapnel.

“Shrapnel went in between the right shoulder and his chest, ripped it open and is still stuck in there,” said the commander.

...

He had been with eight other men in a convoy of three cars when the missile struck, although sources in Washington said that US forces had had no evidence that Zarqawi was in their sights.

According to the commander, two pieces of shrapnel injured Zarqawi in his vehicle. One passed through his body but the other tore away a large chunk of flesh just beneath the shoulder.

Zarqawi was apparently treated with first aid, but a fever would suggest that the wound had become infected. He is said to have been taken to the Ramadi hospital four days after being hit but left soon afterwards despite being urged by the doctor to let himself be admitted as a patient.

While many suggest that the insurgency will continue without Zarqawi, I am of the opinion that it will be difficult for the insurgents to maintain their operational tempo without Zarqawi's top down driving force. His ruthlessness has been necessary to sustain it recently as fewer volunteers are knowingly agreeing to suicide missions. That explains dirivers being chained to their vehicles and the use of mentally retarded and downs syndrone drivers.

Historically, insurgencies usually fade away once leadership figures are removed.

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