Insurgency leader Zarqawi appears in video to warn of more Iraq attacks

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The Independent Online

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head of the terrorist group al-Qa'ida in Iraq, appeared in a video posted on the internet warning of more terrorist attacks.

"What is coming is more painful," he said, as he dismissed the new Iraqi government as an American "stooge" and a "poisoned dagger" in the heart of the Muslim world.

The recording, showing the Iraqi most wanted man unmaskedfor the first time since the start of insurgency , was believed by analysts to be genuine. The Jordanian-born militant has until now only been linked to audiotapes, photos, and masked men in videotapes.

In the 35-minute video, which Zarqawi said was recorded on Friday, he insisted that despite a three-year "crusade" by the West, mujahedin fighters were standing firm. He said: "Your mujahedin sons were able to confront the most ferocious of crusader campaigns on a Muslim state. They have stood in the face of this onslaught for three years."

Zarqawi has claimed responsibility for some of the bloodiest suicide bombings in Iraq since the 2003 fall of Saddam Hussein and for the beheadings and killings of at least 10 foreign hostages, including the British engineer Ken Bigley and the American Nick Berg. The US military has put a $25m (£14m) bounty on his head.

The video is his first message since January, after taking a lower profile amid criticism of bombings against civilians. He was filmed in a flat desert landscape, dotted with scrub brush. The footage showed him and about two dozen insurgents, masked and dressed in black uniforms, undergoing combat training.

In another scene, Zarqawi was filmed inside, sitting with his lieutenants, according to a caption in the video. The men could be seen discussing strategy over a large map spread on the ground.

"Any government which is formed in Iraq now - whether by Shias or Zionist Kurds, or those who are dubbed Sunnis - would only be a stooge," Zarqawi said in the video.

He asked President George Bush: "Why don't you tell people that your soldiers are committing suicide, taking drugs and hallucination pills to make them sleep? ... By God, your dreams will be defeated by our blood and by our bodies. What is coming is even worse."

And he repeated his allegiance to Osama bin Laden, calling him his emir, or prince. "Our emir, Sheikh Osama bin Laden, has offered you a truce, which was good for you if you had accepted. But you turned it down, because of your arrogance," Zarqawi said, referring to an offer al-Qa'ida's chief made two years ago to cease attacks on Europe if the US would withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan.

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