Special Traces the Rise and Fall of the Most Feared Man and Greatest Threat to the U.S. Military in Iraq
Leaving behind a bloody trail of beheadings, bombings and kidnappings, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was one of the world′s most wanted terrorists. Proving to be as elusive as he was deadly, Zarqawi represented a new breed of terrorist, willing to slaughter fellow Muslims to achieve his objectives, which included sparking a civil war in Iraq. How did Zarqawi become such a notorious figure? Why did he rival Osama bin Laden as America′s most wanted terrorist? How was he eventually located and killed after evading U.S. Special Forces for three years? And what happened after he was ultimately eliminated?
Premiering Tuesday, July 25, at 10 p.m. ET/PT on the National Geographic Channel (NGC), The Hunt for Zarqawi takes you into the heart of the danger zone, deconstructing the dramatic twists and turns in one of the biggest manhunts in modern times. Through the eyes of journalists, experts and members of the Armed Forces, including the brigadier who helped coordinate the strike that killed Zarqawi, this one-hour special takes viewers behind the scenes of the terrorist′s last days.
How did Zarqawi evolve into such a ruthless killer? The Hunt for Zarqawi goes back in time, following his transformation from street thug to jihadist. When bin Laden was forced into hiding after 9/11, Zarqawi seized the opportunity to launch his own terrorist organization, which first challenged al Qaeda′s preeminence in Iraq and then became its agent and ally. The show details his adept use of propaganda and the Internet to raise money, recruit suicide bombers and publicize the brutal beheadings of Americans he is thought to have personally committed.
Why was Zarqawi such a threat to U.S. efforts in Iraq? Some of his earliest terrorist strikes virtually drove U.N. forces from the country. He continued to unleash a series of deadly suicide bombings targeting both American forces and Shi′ite civilians, to fan the flames of sectarian violence with the intention of driving Iraq into civil war. The United States perceived Zarqawi as the single biggest obstacle to peace and stability in Iraq and placed a $25 million bounty on his head, equal to that offered for bin Laden.
"Abu Musab al-Zarqawi will go down in history as a bloodthirsty psychopath who demonstrated that he would go to any lengths to sow chaos and dissention among the people of the earth," commented reporter Brian Bennett, who extensively covered the Iraq war for Time Magazine.
For more than three years, the U.S. military desperately tried to find Zarqawi, but he proved to be astonishingly untouchable. The Hunt for Zarqawi details two occasions when Zarqawi is believed to have been within the grasp of authorities - once, unknowingly captured by Iraqi police only to be released 30 minutes later, and a second time when he stormed right through a military roadblock, only to disappear when cameras malfunctioned on an unmanned drone aircraft that was tracking him. Each escape only increased his status as a terrorist mastermind.
The Hunt for Zarqawi reveals the tactics deployed to find him, including electronic and satellite monitoring, as well as insight into the betrayal by members of his inner circle that helped pinpoint his location. The high-stakes cat-and-mouse game came to an end on June 7, 2006, when Zarqawi′s spiritual advisor was tracked to a clandestine meeting with him. At approximately 6 p.m., members of Task Force 145 - some of the most elite troops in the U.S. military, including the Army′s Delta Force, the Navy′s Seal Team Six and Army Rangers - had the village under surveillance. Within 15 minutes, two U.S. F-16 pilots dropped two 500-pound bombs on the target, fatally injuring Zarqawi, who succumbed 52 minutes after the strike. The Hunt for Zarqawi lays out the impact of his killing on the larger effort, which yielded a treasure trove of new intelligence and the elimination of other senior terrorists.
The Hunt for Zarqawi includes interviews with Richard Clarke, former counterterrorism czar under Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush; General Stephen L. Hoog, an Air Force commander in Iraq; reporters for Time, Newsweek, ABC and the New York Times; and Iraqi National Security Advisor Mouwafak al-Rubaie.