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Purported letter: Iraq holy war in danger
Updated: 2004-06-15 13:43

A leader of militants in Iraq has purportedly written to Osama bin Laden saying his fighters are being squeezed by U.S.-led coalition troops, according to a statement posted Monday on Islamic Web sites.

It was not possible to authenticate the statement allegedly from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian whose insurgent group claimed responsibility for the videotaped beheading of American Nicholas Berg.

U.S. Army soldiers look over the aftermath following a car bombing in central Baghdad, Iraq, Monday, June 14, 2004. [AP]
Titled "The text of al-Zarqawi's message to Osama bin Laden about holy war in Iraq," the statement appeared on Web sites that have recently carried claims of responsibility for attacks in Saudi Arabia and Iraq.

"The space of movement is starting to get smaller," it said. "The grip is starting to be tightened on the holy warriors' necks and, with the spread of soldiers and police, the future is becoming frightening."

The statement says the militant movement in Iraq is racing against time to form battalions that can take control of the country "four months before the formation of the promised Iraqi government, hoping to spoil their plan." It appears to refer to the government that would take office after the elections scheduled for January 2005.

It also says insurgents are planning to intensify attacks on Iraqi soldiers and police, seen as collaborators with the U.S.-led coalition. Calling Iraqi forces "the occupier's eye, ear and hand," the statement says: "We are planning on targeting them heavily in the coming stage before they are fully in control."

U.S. authorities believe al-Zarqawi runs his own terrorist operation but is an ally of bin Laden, whose al-Qaida network orchestrated the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The nine-page statement was longer than previous ones from al-Zarqawi, and uses classical Arabic language and poetry typical of militant leaders.

The statement isn't signed. Previously statements or claims of responsibility purportedly from al-Zarqawi have been issued by his Monotheism and Jihad group.

If the militants fail to take over Iraq, "we will have to leave for another land to uphold the (Islamic) banner, or until God chooses us as martyrs," the statement says.

It goes on to assess the militants' record in Iraq, claiming 25 suicide operations targeting majority Shiites, American and Iraqi forces, and other coalition troops. "What is coming will be more, God willing."

The message also apparently seeks to reassure bin Laden that Iraqi militants are in league with his al-Qaida extremists.

"We are not competing with you. We just want to be the head of the spear, a bridge by which the (Islamic) community can cross to victory," it says.

The statement puts the Iraqi militants' enemies into four categories: the Americans, the Kurds, Iraqi police and soldiers; and the Shiites. Of the Shiites, it says: "If we succeed in dragging them into sectarian war, we could wake up the Sunnis."

Shiite Muslims constitute Iraq's largest sectarian group. The second biggest are the Sunni Muslims, whom the statement describes as "politically unaware and divided." The third community is the Kurds.

Last year, U.S. intelligence intercepted a statement allegedly from al-Zarqawi to bin Laden in which the Iraqi militant leader said the best way to undermine U.S. plans for Iraq was to instigate civil war between the Shiites and the Sunnis.

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