BAGHDAD — An Iraqi witness has raised the possibility al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was beaten by American troops after his hideout was destroyed in an air attack.
The witness, who lived near the scene of the bombing, claimed to have seen U.S. soldiers beating an injured man resembling al-Zarqawi until blood flowed from the man’s nose.
When asked about the allegations, U.S. military spokesman Maj.-Gen. William Caldwell said he would check.
In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Jeffrey Gordon said yesterday he was unaware of the claim.
The Iraqi, identified only as Mohammed, claimed residents put the man in an ambulance before U.S. forces arrived.
The American military team then pulled the man from the ambulance and beat him, he said.
He gave a similar account to the Washington Post.
No other witnesses have come forward to verify the account.
U.S. officials have only said al-Zarqawi mumbled and tried to roll off a stretcher before dying.
On Friday, the military said al-Zarqawi survived the dropping of two 225-kg bombs on his hideout.
The bombs tore a huge crater in the date palm forest where the house was nestled just outside Baqouba, northwest of Baghdad.
Iraqi police reached the scene first and found the 39-year-old al-Zarqawi alive.
“He mumbled something, but it was indistinguishable and it was very short,” Caldwell, a spokesman for U.S.-led forces in Iraq, said Friday.
Iraqi police pulled al-Zarqawi from the flattened home and placed him on a makeshift stretcher. U.S. troops arrived, saw that al-Zarqawi was conscious and tried to provide medical treatment, the U.S. spokesman claimed.
Caldwell has not mentioned any other physical interaction between U.S. troops and al-Zarqawi.
Lt.-Col. Thomas Fisher of the 1st Battalion, 68th Armoured Cavalry, said his men showed up about five minutes after the blast and cordoned it off.
“We didn’t know it was Zarqawi, we just knew it was a time-sensitive target,” he said.
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