BAGHDAD (AFP) US military doctors completed an autopsy on the body of slain Al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as Iraq pledged to launch new attacks on the militant leader’s hideouts.
US military spokesman Major William Wilhoite confirmed that the autopsy was complete and the military was now “awaiting the findings” of the medical examination conducted by two doctors flown in from outside Iraq.
On Saturday, coalition forces spokesman Major General William Caldwell said the autopsy was being done to see “how he actually died.”
The move followed repeated queries about the circumstances of Zarqawi’s death, especially after it was revealed he was alive when Iraqi and coalition forces appeared at the scene of the air strike that eventually killed him.
On Wednesday, an F-16 launched two 500 pound (227 kilogram) bombs, one laser-guided and one GPS-guided, at Zarqawi’s safe house northeast of Baghdad near the city of Baquba.
Caldwell clarified on Saturday that there were no gunshot wounds on Zarqawi’s body.
His body is being kept in Baghdad under a 24-hour guard.
The US military was also awaiting the results on DNA tests on Zarqawi.
After the strike Zarqawi was identified through facial recognition, known scars on his body and fingerprints, while samples of his DNA were flown to Washington for further analysis.
Upbeat from the killing of Zarqawi, US and Iraqi security forces were conducting a series of operations to track down the insurgent leader’s aides since his death.
Iraqi Defense Minister Abdel Qader Mohammed Jassim pledged to launch attacks on insurgent hideouts in Iraq.
“In the coming days Iraqi and other security forces will launch multiple activities to chase terrorists and attack their cells and hideouts,” Jassim said in a statement.
“This is part of a security plan that will be carried out soon.”
A police official from the northern oil hub of Kirkuk confirmed the arrest of seven members of the Mujahideen Shura council, a group of militant organisations led by Al-Qaeda.
The seven men had fled from Baquba after the killing of Zarqawi.
Captain Shakhwan Mahmud of the police said a joint US-Iraqi air assault surrounded a house in Kirkuk and arrested seven members of the council led by Al Qaeda in Iraq.
On Friday Abbas al-Mufraji, described as an aide to Zarqawi, was also arrested in security sweeps south of Baquba, an officer in the Iraqi army said.
Twenty-three other suspected followers of the Al-Qaeda leader were also picked up in sweeps throughout the villages south of Baquba.
Caldwell said Zarqawi’s death on Wednesday led to a number of operations on against his men.
“There were certain personnel that we have been watching and monitoring that coalition forces had made the decision not to take down, because they had given key indicators at different points of time where Zarqawi might be — so they were monitored, watched and tracked,” Caldwell said.
“When Zarqawi went down, that enabled us to go in and conduct those operations,” he said.
Meanwhile fresh from the killing of Zarqawi, US President George W. Bush opens on Monday a two-day summit on a reassessment of US efforts in Iraq.
The talks will link his aides at Camp David to the new government in Baghdad, a Bush advisor said in Washington.
On Sunday, rebels continued to inflict violence in Iraq, killing at least three people.
Major General Ali Hussein of the Baghdad police was seriously injured and his driver killed when a bomb went off next to his vehicle in an early morning attack in central Baghdad.
In the oil hub of Kirkuk, north of the capital, a teacher was shot dead by armed men as he left his house while another civilian was killed when a bomb exploded near his car on the road south of the city.