Zarqawi attacks Sunnis for voting in Iraqi polls

CAIRO (AP) — An Internet statement in the name of the Al Qaeda in Iraq terror group has rebuked Sunnis for taking part in last month’s Iraqi elections, saying that by voting the Sunnis had “thrown a rope” to save US policy in the country.
The statement by the group’s leader, Abu Mussab Zarqawi, was posted Monday in text and audiotape on an Islamic website known for publishing extremist material. The authenticity could not be confirmed, but the tape sounded like Zarqawi.

“This is a call to the Sunnis, in general and the followers of the Islamic Party in particular,” Zarqawi said at the outset, referring to the Islamic Party in Iraq.

The party, whose spiritual leader is Mohsen Abdul-Hamid, is the biggest political home for Sunni Arabs in Iraq.

“Where are you being led to? Don’t you fear God?” Zarqawi asked.

Referring to last month’s elections, the terrorist leader said: “At the time, it was very clear to everyone that the crusader enemy was losing, and then you threw a rope to save him.” In a statement 10 pages long, Zarqawi accused the Islamic Party and Sunnis of collaborating with the United States and said those who voted in the parliamentary elections were “hypocrites.” He asked for divine punishment: “God, curse the leaders of the Islamic Party and those who collaborated with them.” In Baghdad, three senior members of the Islamic Party declined to respond to Zarqawi’s statement.

Zarqawi said the insurgents could have disrupted the elections, “but we did not do it to avoid killing some of the Sunnis who were confused” over whether to take part in the election.

Al Qaeda in Iraq has been criticised recently by other insurgent leaders for its policy of indiscriminate attacks on civilians. While other insurgent groups have tend to avoid large civilian loss of life, an Al Qaeda suicide bomber killed 63 people in the Shiite holy city of Karbala last Thursday.

Zarqawi also said the United States’ announcement last month that it will withdraw some troops from Iraq this year was a victory for the Islamic forces.

The No. 2 leader of the global Al Qaeda network, Ayman Zawahri, made the same claim in a videotape broadcast by Jazeera on Friday.

“America today is breathing its last breaths and shaking under the blows of the holy warriors,” Zarqawi said.

Referring to US President George W. Bush, he added: “All that you hear from the liar of the White House is that the situation in Iraq is getting better.” He said he was praying to God to destroy Americans. “God, torture them yourself or in our hands … God, shower them with diseases and misfortunes.” Zarqawi repeated his group’s claim that it fired a barrage of rockets from Lebanon into northern Israel on December 27, provoking Israeli air strikes on a Palestinian base in central Lebanon.

He said the attacks were “the beginning of the blessed work of striking deep into the Zionist enemy, according to instructions of Osama Ben Laden,” the leader of the global Al Qaeda network.

Israel blamed the rocket attack on the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, a pro-Syrian group. Israeli military intelligence said the rockets were Russian-made Katyushas that had been sold to Syria several years ago. The PFLP-GC denied firing the rockets.

Zarqawi claimed the insurgents, or “holy warriors,” had killed more than 500 Iraqi soldiers during the past two weeks. Since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in April 2003, the insurgents had carried out about 800 suicide attacks and, with other attacks, killed “at least 40,000 American soldiers,” he said.

The United States says it has lost about 2,200 troops in Iraq since invading the country in March 2003.

Zarqawi condemned the Arab League, which hosted a meeting in Cairo last month that tried to reconcile Iraq’s ethnic and religious factions. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Algeria and other states attended.

“The Arab League and its members were impotent,” he said. “Those countries that met in Cairo are the same as those that took part in slaughter of Iraq [during the US-led invasion] and which cooperated with the Americans by opening their airspace, land and sea.”

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