Conflicting statements on Zarqawi deputy

DUBAI (Reuters) — Conflicting statements about the leadership of Al Qaeda in Iraq appeared on the Internet on Thursday following reports that its chief, Abu Mussab Al Zarqawi, had been wounded.
A statement in the name of Al Qaeda Organisation for Holy War in Iraq was posted on an Islamist website saying the group had appointed a deputy to fill in for Zarqawi, but a later statement purportedly from a group spokesman swiftly denied it.

London-based Islamist activist Yasser Al Serri, who monitors websites used by militants, said statements from spokesman Abu Maysarah Al Iraqi were more credible and the earlier posting was questionable even though it bore Al Qaeda’s signature.

The earlier posting had said that leaders of Al Qaeda in Iraq had met and named Sheikh Abu Hafs Al Qarni as deputy leader “until the return of our Sheikh [Zarqawi] safely.” But the later statement from Abu Maysarah, who often posts Al Qaeda’s Internet utterances, said: “We deny what was issued about the appointment of the so-called Abu Hafs or any other name.” Serri said the first statement may have been issued by an Al Qaeda supporter trying to ease concerns after the group said on Tuesday that Zarqawi had been wounded “in the path of God.”

“The individual seems to be trying to reassure everyone that there is no disarray and that there are people to fill the place of Zarqawi,” Serri told Reuters.

The statement attributed to Abu Maysarah said the group had announced the wounding of Zarqawi on Tuesday to show its credibility and ease fears that he had died. It suggested the group would soon announce good news about Zarqawi.

“You will hear what will make you happy, faithful brothers, and the allies of Satan will hear what will anger them,” it said.

Iraq’s interior minister said on Thursday he had received information five days ago that Zarqawi had been wounded, but would not say where it came from.

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