* filkins/burns in the nyt:
"Along with the scraps, it was mostly questions that remained.
Chief among them was how Mr. Zarqawi, the terrorist leader killed Wednesday in the airstrike, could have survived for even a few minutes after the attack, as American officers say he did, when everything else around him was obliterated. Concrete blocks, walls, a fence, tin cans, palm trees, a washing machine: everything at the Hibhib scene was shredded, blown to pieces.
It seemed puzzling, too, given the destruction and the condition of the other bodies, how Mr. Zarqawi's head and upper body — shown on televisions across the world — could have remained largely intact.
With rumors circulating in the Iraqi news media that Mr. Zarqawi had begun to run from the house as the first bomb struck, American officials said Saturday that two military pathologists had arrived in Iraq to perform an autopsy on Mr. Zarqawi's body to determine the precise cause of his death.
The results from the autopsy, and Mr. Zarqawi's precise location at the time of the airstrike, will be disclosed soon, an American military official said. American officials said Mr. Zarqawi had suffered no gunshot wounds, trying to dispel suggestions that someone had delivered a coup de grâce at the scene.
General Caldwell said the changing details were a result of the confusion typical in the immediate aftermath of military operations. "There is no intention on anybody's behalf to engage in deception, manipulation or evasion," he said.
From accounts given at the Saturday briefing, it became increasingly clear that the attack on Mr. Zarqawi was hurriedly organized, involving split-second decisions in the last minutes before the bombs were dropped.
General Caldwell said "painstaking" tracking of Mr. Zarqawi's spiritual adviser, Sheik Abd al-Rahman, in a period of two or three weeks before the bombing meant that Mr. Rahman was under close surveillance as he traveled to the house at Hibhib on Wednesday afternoon. But he said the Americans had no indication before the sheik arrived at the house where he was going, and knew for certain that Mr. Zarqawi was there only when Mr. Rahman arrived.
In Hibhib, Lt. Col. Thomas Fisher, in charge of a group of American soldiers patrolling the overall area, said he was ordered late Wednesday afternoon to get his men as quickly as possible to the site, what was described as a "time sensitive target." That took 90 minutes; an American commando team that had arrived earlier had come and gone. "We didn't know it was Zarqawi," Colonel Fisher said.
General Caldwell declined to say how Mr. Rahman was being tracked, or how exactly the American command knew once he reached the house that Mr. Zarqawi was there. But from what he did say, the strong implication was that the Americans were relying on a combination of remotely piloted surveillance aircraft and electronic intercepts of the phone being used by Mr. Rahman.
Eventually, he said, the American military would have "an amazing story to tell" about the operation, one that involved weeks of assembling an intelligence jigsaw, some of it drawn from high-technology tracking of Mr. Rahman, some of it "good old human intelligence" gathered from Iraqis and other sources, which he did not name.