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Who is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi?

From Barbara Starr
CNN

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. officials say they are doing everything they can to capture the man who now rivals Osama bin Laden as public enemy No.1.

The U.S. believes Abu Musab al-Zarqawi beheaded the American hostage Eugene Armstrong.

With a bounty on his head, Zarqawi now is squarely in the crosshairs of President Bush.

"My message to Mr. Zarqawi," the president says, "is you cannot drive us out of Iraq by your brutality."

Almost daily air strikes in the Sunni stronghold of Falluja are now aimed at al-Zarqawi and his followers.

Over the last 18 months al-Zarqawi has led foreign fighters inside Iraq.

"Zarqawi born in Jordan, is the most capable terrorist in Iraq today and his networks and contacts extend to Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East," coalition military spokesman Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said last February, providing background information on al-Zarqawi.

In Iraq, he is believed to have masterminded the beheading of American Nicholas Berg, as well as attacks on the United Nations and the Red Cross.

"This guy is a full time Jihadist, there is no doubt about it," says CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen.

Some analysts say al-Zarqawi's power to simply terrorize is now his most effective weapon.

"Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was probably far more important to the insurgency early on after the fall of Baghdad. At that point in time the insurgents were disorganized," says Kenneth Pollack, director of research at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.

The United States believes al-Zarqawi appealed to al Qaeda to help start a civil war in Iraq. But now al-Zarqwai and bin Laden are perhaps more in competition than cooperation.

"It's significant that Zarqawi set up his own camp in Herat in western Afghanistan, because it was hundreds of miles away from bin Laden's camps in southern and eastern Afghanistan," Bergen says

The Pentagon says six key al-Zarqawi lieutenants have been killed in recent days, but offer no prediction on when he will be caught.

 
 
 
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