Wednesday night 30 miles outside of Baghdad prompted everything from expressions of joy to displays of grief to confessions of mild anxiety--and some political sniping.
Under al-Zarqawi's leadership, terrorist groups in Iraq carried out bloody attacks on civilian and military targets, including a number of beheadings and suicide bombings. His influence was felt worldwide.
"Now Zarqawi has met his end, and this violent man will never murder again," President Bush said in an address from the White House.
Still, some readers on news broadcaster CNN's Web site questioned how much effect al-Zarqawi's death will have on the level of terrorism waged in the world.
That sort of tempered response rankled a few bloggers on Free Republic, a conservative message board, where one declared that "liberals are depressed" that al-Zarqawi is dead.
"Good people throughout the world are dancing in the street over this insane killer finally being put down; and the liberals aren't happy about it," wrote a blogger named WinteryDays. "Their minds are dark, they are ignorant, just plain evil, or all of the above."
But the founder of the news-based blog Outside the Beltway believes some benefit will come as a result.
"Killing the charismatic head of an organization tends to be quite disruptive," James Joyner notes on the site. "In the short term, though, I suspect we'll see an increase in violence, as al-Qaida tries to demonstrate that it's unbowed."
Joyner added: "If true, the news that the intelligence that led to Zarqawi's death came from the people among whom he was hiding, bolstered by help from a friendly Arab regime, is especially welcome."
The Arab news agency Aljazeera, meanwhile, noted the grief felt by al-Zarqawi's older brother, Sayil al-Khalayla, who told the Associated Press in a phone interview that his family had anticipated al-Zarqawi's death for some time. "We expected that he would be martyred...we hope that he will join other martyrs in heaven," he told the AP.
In both life and death, al-Zarqawi was a forceful using the Internet to disseminate his message, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.. He was widely known for
"Perhaps the most effective way in which terrorists use the Internet is the spread of propaganda," according to a posting on the council's site. "Abu Musab al-Zargawi's al-Qaida cell in Iraq has proven particularly adept in its use of the Web, garnering attention by posting footage of...roadside bombings, the decapitation of American hostage Nick Berg, and kidnapped Egyptian and Algerian diplomats prior to their execution."