Alleged Zarqawi tape threatens new attacks
An audiotape purportedly by America's most-wanted insurgent in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, posted Friday on the Internet threatens more attacks against U.S. forces and urges followers to be wary of any American attempts at dialogue.
The authenticity of the 18-minute tape, posted on a Web site known for carrying messages from Islamic militant groups, could not be determined. The voice on the tape sounded similar to previous audiotapes attributed to the Jordanian-born militant who leads an al-Qaida affiliate in Iraq.
"After conducting a technical analysis, we assess with high confidence that the voice is that of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi," said a U.S. intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The voice on the tape directly addresses U.S. President George W. Bush, who on Thursday welcomed the new Iraqi government and again promised American help fighting insurgents.
"You, Bush, we will not rest until we avenge our dignity," the voice said. "We will not rest while your army is here as long as there is a pulse in our veins."
It wasn't clear exactly when the tape was made, but the speaker refers to a newspaper article he said was dated March 19 and then makes a separate reference to the story as having come "this month."
The tape urged al-Zarqawi's followers to step up their attacks on American soldiers.
"Move ahead with God's blessing," the voice commands. "Before the fall of this night, I want to see your swords dripping with the blood of your enemy."
The speaker warns followers against any American overtures for dialogue, an apparent reference to reported attempts by the U.S.-backed former Iraqi Premier Ayad Allawi to open contacts with some insurgents in an attempt to persuade them to lay down their arms in exchange for amnesty and a say in politics.
Leaders of the Muslim Scholars Association, the main Sunni Muslim political front, have acknowledged U.S. diplomats have tried to persuade them to end the insurgency in the Arab Sunni areas.
"Be aware, these are the devil's tricks," he warned. "They (the Americans) have offered this dialogue after the defeats they have suffered."
"Fight them in order to avoid sedition. Your holy war will bear fruit," he said.
The speaker also blasted Iraqi Sunni Muslim clerics for failing to support the insurgency. "Where are the Sunni scholars? Why we do not hear their voices?" he asks.
It mocked Iraqi Shiites, calling them "rotten." Al-Zarqawi's group, like al-Qaida, considers Shiite Muslims infidels.
The United States has offered a US$25 million reward for information leading to al-Zarqawi's arrest.