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Middle East Press Reports of Zarqawi News Fast, Mixed

Press reaction in the Middle East to the news that U.S. warplanes had killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, was swift and restrained.

Iraqi TV broke the story, quoting Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as saying that Zarqawi had been killed. The news was immediately picked up at 6:50 GMT by the pan-Arab TV network al-Jazeera.

Red banners with urgent tags immediately appeared on many Arab TV stations, as the region's major stations broke into regular programming to announce Zarqawi’s death.

Islamic extremist web sites also were quick to carry the news – and in their case, lament it.
A note posted on one web site – known as a clearinghouse for Al Qaeda in Iraq statements – lamented, "We hope this news is not true."

"If Sheik al-Zarqawi has died, he will go to heaven, God willing, and there will be 200 million al-Zarqawis after him," said another note posted on the same site.

Some state TV stations largely ignored the news. Government-run TV stations in Syria, Saudi Arabia and Yemen continued with regular programming even as al-Jazeera was flashing alerts.

Most newspapers in the region failed to carry the story, either in print or on their websites. The Jerusalem Post reported the news on its front page and website, but the Iranian Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) ignored the story.

News Timeline:

The first report of the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, was observed by BBC Moniing on the pan-Arab TV station al-Jazeera.

At 6:50 GMT al-Jazeera reported that Iraqi TV was quoting Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as saying that Zarqawi had been killed. Iraqi TV added that "the Pentagon has not thus far confirmed the report."

At 7:02 GMT the Iraqi TV station al-Sharqiya announced that the prime minister would soon give a news conference of "paramount importance".

At 7:22 GMT the pan-Arab al-Arabiya TV carried a screen caption quoting its correspondent reporting: "Maliki announces the death of Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq."

As viewers waited for the news conference, details began to emerge on other Arabic TV stations.

Zarqawi had been killed during a U.S. air raid, reported al-Arabiya.

"Al-Zarqawi has been killed in air raid north of Baquba," said a screen caption broadcast by Iraqi Patriotic Union of Kurdistan KurdSat TV at 7:40 GMT.

Iraqi TV stations broke into their regular schedules at 7:41 GMT to bring their viewers the news conference live.

The children's cartoons on al-Sharqiya TV stopped and al-Iraqiya TV interrupted its regular cooking program.

The scene switched to Baghdad, as Iraqi networks ran the news conference live. Viewers saw Prime Minister Maliki make the announcement at 7:42 GMT:

"Today al-Zarqawi has been killed." The announcement was followed by applause and cheering.

As the news conference continued, al-Iraqiya TV provided a consecutive translation into English.

Pan-Arabic stations combined clips from the news conference with recent footage of Zarqawi and reports on his background.

Al-Arabiya also quoted Zarqawi's brother as saying that the killing "was expected".