WASHINGTON – A top U.S. commander in Iraq said Tuesday he has "absolutely no reason" to believe the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, died in a weekend raid in Mosul. Lt. Gen. John Vines, chief of the Multi-National Corps Iraq, also confirmed that U.S. officials have the ability to determine if al-Zarqawi was there.
"I am told that there is a DNA database of some of his relatives that is able to be compared against some of those who were killed there," Vines told reporters. "If he had been in one of those houses that were part of the objective, we could confirm that."
Eight insurgents and four Iraqi policemen died in the raid by U.S. and Iraqi forces, including three insurgents who blew themselves up to avoid capture, officials said. The allied forces mounted an assault on a house in the northern city of Mosul that was believed used by members of Al Qaeda in Iraq.
Iraq's foreign minister has said that tests were being done to determine if al-Zarqawi was one of those killed.
Vines also staunchly refused to outline a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
Despite mounting political pressure in the United States and among some Iraqi leaders, Vines said any recommendations for troop withdrawal that he makes will be based on the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces, the ability of the government to sustain them, and the effectiveness of the insurgency.