(photo credit: Channel 2)
President George W. Bush on Thursday hailed the killing of a leading al-Qaida terrorist by military forces in Iraq, saying that Americans "can be justly proud" of US fighting men and women.
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's death "is a severe blow to al-Qaida and it is a significant victory in the war on terror," Bush said in a statement at the White House.
Still, he cautioned, "The difficult and necessary mission in Iraq continues. We can expect the terrorists and insurgents to carry out without him. Yet the ideology of terror has lost one of its most visible and aggressive leaders."
"We have tough days ahead of us in Iraq that will require the continuing patience of the American people," he said.
Jordan provided the US military with information that helped in tracking down and killing al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian official with knowledge of the operation said earlier Thursday.
Some of the information came from Jordan's sources inside Iraq and led the US military to the area of Baqouba, the region northeast of Baghdad where Iraq's prime minister said al-Zarqawi was killed in an air strike Wednesday night, the official said.
The official would not elaborate, but Jordan is known to have intelligence agents operating in Iraq to hunt down Islamic militants.
Jordan also analyzed a video issued by al-Zarqawi in April and helped pinpoint where it was filmed, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was addressing intelligence issues.
Likud Chairman Binyamin Netanyahu reacted to the assassination of al-Zarqawi with satisfaction on Thursday.
"The terrorist leaders need to know that if they want to send others to be Shahids (martyrs), they themselves will become Shahids," he said.
The Likud chairman also said that the cooperation between Israel and the US in the war on terror had increased greatly and that intelligence was being shared to catch terrorists and thwart attacks.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the death of al-Zarqawi was a blow to the terror network.
"Today's announcement was very good news because a blow to al-Qaida in Iraq is a blow against al-Qaida everywhere," Blair told Cabinet members.
The prime minister also praised US and coalition troops for their work in Iraq and its new democratically elected government.
In related news, the price of oil dropped to $69.97 a barrel from record levels of $74 a barrel just a week ago, following the announcement of al-Zarqawi's death.