Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was associated with many spectacular and bloody attacks both in and outside Iraq.
Last year he claimed responsibility for a triple suicide bombing in his native Jordan. He perhaps gained greatest notoriety though for his beheadings of foreign hostages.
But British defence analyst Michael Clarke says Zarqawi’s ultimate goal was to undermine the Iraqi government.
“Zarqawi was extremely ruthless and some people thought he was a psychopath but he wasn’t,” Clarke said. “He had a very clear strategy to create sectarian violence in Iraq to make it ungovernable and to bring it down so that the Sunnis could eliminate the Shia from Iraq.”
Zarqawi was blamed for orchestrating some of the biggest attacks targeting the Shiite majority, including the blast in Najaf in 2003 which killed a senior Shia cleric and 85 others.
“I think with Zarqawi now dead then one of the great engineers of sectarian violence in Iraq is gone but I have to say I think sectarianism is now so deeply ingrained in that society that it would be difficult to see it not continuing,” Clarke said.
A string of bombs in Baghdad killed more than 31 people yesterday following the announcement of Zarqawi’s death – a sign, skeptics say, that the killing of Iraq’s most high profile insurgent will do little to stem the violence tearing the country apart.