Top terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and seven aides were killed in an air strike north of Baghdad, the governments of Iraq and the U.S. said Thursday.

"Those who disrupt the course of life, like al-Zarqawi, will have a tragic end," said U.S. ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, in Baghdad. "The death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is a huge success for Iraq and the international war on terror."

The al Qaeda leader was often identified as the top target of the U.S. military among Iraqi insurgents and gained a reputation for brutality for his role in the beheading of Western hostages. He has been a central figure in the campaign of bloodshed that has marked the two-year-old insurgency in Iraq.

Zarqawi was killed when U.S. forces bombed a house 30 miles north of Baghdad in the Diyala province based on intelligence provided to the Iraqi army. He was identified by fingerprints.

In Washington, President Bush called the killing "a severe blow" against terrorism.

"Now Zarqawi has met his end," Bush said at a press conference. "And this violent man will never murder again." British Prime Minister Tony Blair said al-Zarqawi's death "was very good news because a blow against al Qaeda in Iraq was a blow against al Qaeda everywhere."