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ZARQA, Jordan -- The town that would give Abu Musab Zarqawi his notorious moniker is a hard place — treeless and tough, cinder-block apartment houses punctuated by drab mosques. They say you have to be a thug to make it in the streets here, and the young Zarqawi had all the credentials: He ran with a fast crowd, fought easily and covered his skin with tattoos.
That was back in the 1980s, before he turned to religion. Before the call to jihad rang through the Arab world, sweeping away young men who could discern no more-promising prospects. Before U.S. leaders labeled Zarqawi as the mastermind behind some of the bloodiest mayhem in postwar Iraq.
Back then, his name was Ahmed Khalayleh.