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A Dying Al-Zarqawi Tried to Get Away

The airstrike killed two other men and three women who were in the house, but only al-Zarqawi and his spiritual adviser have been positively identified, he said.

Caldwell also said experts told him it is not unheard of for people to survive a blast of that magnitude.

"There are cases when people, in fact, can survive even an attack like that on a building structure. Obviously, the other five in the building did not, but he did for some reason," Caldwell said.

He said he did not know if al-Zarqawi was inside or outside the house when the bombs struck.

"Well, what we had found, as with anything, first reports are not always fully accurate as we continue the debriefings. But we were not aware yesterday that, in fact, Zarqawi was alive when U.S. forces arrived on the site," Caldwell said.

His recounting of the aftermath of the airstrike could not be independently verified. The Iraqi government confirmed only that Iraqi forces were first on the scene, followed by the Americans.

An aide to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media, said he saw Caldwell's news briefing but could neither confirm nor deny that al-Zarqawi briefly survived the blast.

"Well, I think it's clear: The Americans said he was seriously wounded and he died," the aide said.


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© 2006 The Associated Press