"Zarqawi was alive when U.S. forces arrived on the site," Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said in a satellite interview from Iraq. "The Iraqi police arrived first, they found him in the rubble, put him on a gurney of some type."
Caldwell, the chief U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, said Zarqawi tried to roll off the gurney to escape once he became aware of the fact that he was being taken into custody by coalition troops Wednesday night after two 500-pound precision guided bombs blew up his safehouse near Baqouba.
U.S. forces immediately made a visual identification of Zarqawi but were unable to interrogate him because he died of his injuries "shortly after" being pulled from the rubble, Caldwell said.
Caldwell indicated that U.S. troops "went into the process to provide medical care to him" before he expired. He did not elaborate on the medical assistance.
The U.S. military earlier had displayed images of the battered face of Zarqawi and reported that he had been identified by fingerprints, tattoos and scars. Biological samples from his body also were delivered to an FBI crime laboratory in Virginia for DNA testing. The results were expected in three days.
American, British, Iraqi and possibly Jordanian intelligence were all involved in tracking down the notorious terror mastermind based on tips from senior leaders in Zarqawi’s own network.
Information gathered from the bombing site led to 17 subsequent raids. An additional 39 raids were conducted overnight but not all of them were directly associated with intelligence gained from the bombing, Gen. Caldwell said.
"What we have been focusing on is the mid-level grade personnel in that organization," Caldwell said referring to Al Qaeda in Iraq.
Caldwell said it could be weeks before intelligence officials are able to fully analyze all the material and information obtained after the bombing but pointed out that it had already proved "extremely useful and beneficial."
Revising what military officials said Thursday, Caldwell said it now appears there was no child among those killed in the bombing. He cautioned that some facts were still being sorted out.
He said three women and three men, including Zarqawi, were killed.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.