"We anticipated that he would be killed for a very long time," Sayil al-Khalayla told The Associated Press on Thursday in a telephone interview from al-Zarqa, the poor industrial town that al-Zarqawi called home and from which he derived his name.

"We expected that he would be martyred," he said, in a low voice, signalling his grief over the death of his brother, whose real name is Ahmad Fadhil Nazzal al-Khalayla.

"We hope that he will join other martyrs in heaven."

In the wake of a triple hotel bombings in Amman in November, claimed by al-Zarqawi's group, his family told King Abdullah II that they "severed links with him until doomsday".

In newspaper adverts, 57 members of the al-Khalayla family, including Sayil, reiterated their allegiance to the king.

Grief in Zarqa

On Thursday in al-Zarqa, al-Zarqawi's three sisters arrived at the family home but declined to talk to reporters as they entered the house.

With the women was al-Zarqawi's borther-in-law, Abu Qudama, who said: "We are not sad that he's dead.

"To the contrary, we're happy because he's a martyr and he's now in heaven."

In front of the family house, a 13-year-old boy, who said he was al-Zarqawi's nephew, stared at a crowd of reporters who had gathered there.

"I'm so sad about my uncle," said the boy, who identified himself as Omar.

He said the family heard the news of al-Zarqawi's death on Aljazeera.

Other family members declined to come outside to speak to reporters.

Aljazeera crew

The Jordanian security forces briefly detained Yasser Abu Hilala, Aljazeera's bureau chief in Jordan, and his crew and confiscated their equipment while they were interviewing Abu Qudama.

 

An Aljazeera crew was briefly
detained after the interview

Abu Hilala told Aljazeera later that security forces confiscated the equipment after the crew refused to stop filming.

 

He added that the Jordanian police cut the interview and drove them away from the filming site for about 10 minutes before they were told they were free to go.

 

Abu Hilala said that even Abu Qudama, who was also detained, was later released.

Timing

Speaking to Aljazeera on Thursday, Abd al-Bari Atwan, editor of Al-Quds Al-Arabi, a London-based Arabic newspaper, said he thought the killing of al-Zarqawi was timed to boost the new Iraqi prime minister.

"I think the Americans planned for this operation a long time ago, which helped them find information about al-Zarqawi's location and lay siege to it.

"For sure, Prime Minister al-Maliki, who faces difficulties in forming a national unity government, knew what would happen. Which is why he chose this day to announce the ministers of defence, interior and national security, so that it would coincide with the the killing of al-Zarqawi, which they thought would be a great victory."

Islamist view

Muntasir al-Zayyat, a lawyer who ran as an Islamist  candidate in Egypt, told Aljazeera: "Al-Maliki and other Iraqi politicians do not recognise the truth.

"The first thing to know is that the Iraqi resistance is from Iraq itself.

"Al-Zarqawi is one of the few mujahidin Arabs (holy fighters) who entered Iraq to fight US and foreign forces which occupied the country.

"Without the support of honest Iraqis to the Iraqi resistance, al-Zarqawi would not be able to stay all this period doing operations that harmed the occupation forces."