Alleged Al-Zarqawi tape denounces Shiites
CAIRO, Egypt - An Internet audiotape posted Wednesday, purportedly by the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, denounced Iraq's Shiites as collaborators with the Americans and said the country's rulers were traitors to Islam.
The tape was the first said to be from the Jordanian-born militant since a new, Shiite-dominated government was put in place in early May. In the past weeks, al-Qaida in Iraq and other militant groups have stepped up their campaign of car bombings, suicide attacks, shootings and kidnappings.
The speaker, purported to be al-Zarqawi, also justified the deaths of fellow Muslims in attacks against U.S. troops and their Iraqi allies, saying jihad — or holy war — was too important to be hindered.
"God ordered us to attack the infidels by all means ... even if armed infidels and unintended victims — women and children — are killed together," he said. "The priority is for jihad so anything that slows down jihad should be overcome."
The authenticity of the tape, posted on an Internet Web forum where al-Qaida in Iraq statements are often posted, could not be independently verified. The voice resembled that on previous al-Zarqawi tapes. U.S. intelligence was conducting a technical analysis to verify its authenticity, said an American official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
At the Pentagon, Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said al-Zarqawi's justifications for killing fellow Muslims showed he "has absolutely no moral foundation. It's an outrage."
"What he says is it's OK for Muslims to kill Muslims, and not just any Muslims but innocents, men, women and children. And that's what he's been doing," Myers told a news conference.
In the tape, the speaker denounced Shiites, accusing Shiite militias operated by parties that are now part of the government of assassinating Sunni Muslim figures, kidnapping Sunni women and seizing mosques since the U.S.-led invasion two years ago.
"These hateful brigades ... deported Sunni families from the south, killed hundreds of the Sunnis, took over the mosques, and turned them to bastions of apostasy," he said.
Shiites are "collaborating with the worshippers of the cross," who invaded Iraq, corrupted the country and violated holy sites, the speaker said. "This is all taking place under of a state of apostasy among the rulers of this nation."
A senior U.S. military official said lieutenants of al-Zarqawi — and perhaps al-Zarqawi himself — held a meeting in neighboring Syria about a month ago to plan an intensified series of car bombings and other attacks throughout Iraq.
There were 21 car bombings in Baghdad so far in May, compared with 25 such attacks in the capital in all of 2004, said the official, who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.
"He said he's trying to provoke a civil war. He's trying to keep freedom from
happening in the Middle East," Myers told reporters.