Extremists said Abu Musab al-Zarqawi died the death of a true Muslim hero, but other Arabs saw him as a killer who had devastated many families.
“Don’t be happy, Bush and small Abdullah,” wrote Abu-Hajar on an Islamist website today, addressing US President George Bush and Jordan’s King Abdullah II, whose country helped track down al-Zarqawi. “The slaughterers are coming.”
“Oh God, make heaven celebrate his arrival there,” Ahmed Hamad wrote on another internet site.
The celebration of al-Zarqawi’s death is more than just an attempt to put a brave face on a killing that has dealt a blow to al-Qaida in Iraq.
Islamic militants portray such deaths as good news because they believe that after dying in battle, the dead enter heaven as “martyrs”.
Al-Zarqawi’s death was confirmed by his group, which posted a statement on the internet saying: “We want to give you the joyous news of the martyrdom of the holy warrior sheikh Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.”
“The death of our leaders is life for us. It will only increase our persistence in continuing holy war so that the word of God will be supreme,” added the statement.
Extremist and moderate Arabs use internet chat rooms heavily because they have few other outlets to express themselves candidly. Many post their contributions under fake names for fear of retribution from either governments or internet users with different views.
Today, militants predicted al-Zarqawi’s killing would spark revenge attacks.
Hours after al-Zarqawi’s death was made public, his supporters posted his pictures alongside poems that eulogised him and messages in flowery language that claimed he had earned a place next to Prophet Mohammed.
“Oh Allah, reunite us with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in the great paradise alongside Prophet Mohammed,” wrote Umm Ma’athe on one Islamist website. “Farewell, oh hero,” said an unsigned poem.
“We hope to meet you in…a paradise filled with rivers and sweetness and beautiful virgins that beckon to us in a unique voice.”
Islamic militants believe that martyrs who die for God and honour will be rewarded with more than 70 virgins in paradise.
But not all the internet postings extolled al-Zarqawi.
In the chat room of the Al-Arabiya TV station, many contributors hoped that al-Zarqawi would somehow pay for his kidnappings and murders.
“Oh Allah, punish him for the blood he has shed aggressively and unjustly,” said someone using the name Nasser.
“How many heads have you chopped off? How many children have you orphaned? How many women have you made cry? You have ruined the homes of Muslims,” wrote Majed Abul-Majd.
Some contributors predicted al-Zarqawi’s death would be a good omen for Iraq.
“I hope this is the beginning of the end for terrorism in our beloved Iraq,” said Muhammad Omar al-Dulaimi on the Al-Arabiya site.
The differing views even provoked online clashes.
“Death to al-Qaida. Death to terrorism. Death to the devil. Death to the enemies of Iraq,” wrote a Shiite user under the name of Unanimous Iraqi.
“God willing, there will be one million al-Zarqawis who will take revenge,” retorted an apparently Sunni contributor who cursed the Shiite users.