Few tears will be shed in Iraq over the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi but it could spark a redoubling of the insurgency against the US, it was claimed yesterday.
Abdel Bari-Atwan, editor of London-based Arabic daily newspaper Al Quds, said warring Sunni and Shia factions could unite to attack the
Americans. Al-Zarqawi had become an embarrassment to the al Qaida leadership and was regarded as a "loose cannon" by Iraqi fighters, he said.
Many disliked the fact that al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian-born Sunni, pursued a policy of sectarian bloodshed against Iraqi Shias. Mr Bari-Atwan said the news of his death would be received with a "sigh of relief" by Arabs.
"This man was brutal and a thug," he added.
"He damaged the image of Islam and the Arabs by his bombings that tore apart innocent women and children."
But he also said al Qaida chiefs Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri would breathe a "sigh of relief".
"This man imposed himself on al Qaida. He did a lot of damage to the organisation," said Mr Bari-Atwan, who has interviewed bin Laden in the past.
Al-Zawahri, bin Laden's deputy, had been heavily critical of the atrocities committed by al-Zarqawi against innocent Iraqis.
The latter had recently been stripped of his leadership role.
"I don't think many people will shed a lot of tears for his death.
"They were not happy with his practices. The man was a loose cannon.
"He wasn't controllable at all. He was a huge embarrassment to al Qaida and for the insurgents."
Mr Bari-Atwan said: "I believe his death could be counter-productive to the Americans because now the Iraqi [al Qaida] leadership will take over and they may intensify their attacks".