Blast Injuries Killed Zarqawi, Military Says

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:17 PM EDT

( - The official autopsy results are in, and terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi "was treated better in death than he treated others in life," Army Maj. Gen. William Caldwell told reporters at a press conference in Iraq on Monday.

The autopsy - performed on Saturday by senior Defense Department medical examiners -- showed that Zarqawi died of "extensive blast injuries to the lungs," although he also sustained various fractures, cuts and bruises.

When U.S. medics arrived on the scene, Zarqawi was lapsing in and out of consciousness. Medics noted that his lungs were full of blood, and although they rendered immediate medical care, there wasn't much they could do for Zarqawi, Caldwell said.

The autopsy showed that Zarqawi had no shrapnel or bullets wounds to his body, and the injuries he suffered were not the result of a beating, one of the medical examiners said.

Zarqawi did not die immediately. "Death occurred as lung function deteriorated and the lungs became progressively unable to absorb oxygen into the bloodstream," Col. Steve Jones told reporters. Jones is the command surgeon of multinational forces Iraq, who was present during the autopsy and reviewed Zarqawi's remains.

He said Zarqawi's spiritual adviser, Sheikh Abd al-Rahman, died instantaneously of a skull fracture and other injuries caused by shrapnel and flying debris.

Jones explained that the angle of the bomb explains why two people in the same room suffered such different injuries. The shrapnel dispersion may be heavier on one side of the room than the other, depending on how the bomb hit, they said.

Caldwell said six people, three of them women, were in the safe house when the bomb hit at 6:12 p.m. local time.

Coalition forces arrived at the safe house at 6:40 p.m. - 28 minutes later - and immediately started medical care, but Caldwell said nothing would have saved Zarqawi because his injuries were too serious.

Medics report that Zarqawi stopped breathing around 7:04 p.m. - about 24 minutes after coalition forces arrived on the scene.

"These autopsies were performed to make a definitive determination as to the cause of both Zaqawi's and (spiritual adviser) Rahman's deaths," Caldwell said.

"The scientific facts provide irrefutable evidence regarding the death of these terrorists and will serve to counter speculation, misinformation and propaganda."

Col. Jones told reporters that the Iraqi terrorists' remains were treated "with the same high degree of dignity and respect that we treat our own casualties."

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