Militant vows more attacks

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The Independent Online

A senior al-Qa'ida operative, accused by the Americans of fomenting civil war in Iraq, vowed yesterday to carry out further attacks against US soldiers and Shia collaborators.

A senior al-Qa'ida operative, accused by the Americans of fomenting civil war in Iraq, vowed yesterday to carry out further attacks against US soldiers and Shia collaborators.

"We will not let you off, you snakes of evil, until you lift your hands off our mosques and stop shedding the blood of Sunnis ... and helping the enemies - the crusaders and Jews - against Muslims," said Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, in an audio tape on an Islamist website. "Sharpen your swords and burn the ground under the invaders' feet. Fight the Americans, fight the rejectionists [Shia] and the agents and hypocrites," the tape said.

In the recording, believed to have been made in Iraq, Zarqawi claimed responsibility for attacks on US and other coalition forces since the fall of Saddam Hussein in April last year.

"We have chopped their heads and torn their bodies in many places ... at the United Nations in Baghdad, the coalition forces in Karbala, the Italians in Nasiriyah, the American forces on the Khalidiya bridge, US intelligence at Chahine hotel, the presidential palace in Baghdad, the CIA in al-Rashid hotel and the Polish forces in Hillah," the tape said.

Zarqawi, a Jordanian believed to be inside Iraq, had been suspected of masterminding attacks including the massacre of Shia pilgrims in Karbala and Baghdad on 2 March. The US has attributed to Zarqawi a letter on a CD-Rom in which he warned of attacks on the majority Shia population with the aim of provoking a Sunni-Shia civil war to wreck the US plans to pull out of Iraq on 30 June. The letter was apparently from Zarqawi to his superiors, possibly Osama bin Laden.

Zarqawi, whose real name is Ahmad Fadheel al-Khalayleh, was sentenced to death in absentia last year for plotting attacks on Westerners in Jordan. Yesterday he received a further death sentence in absentia, along with seven other al-Qa'ida militants, for killing Laurence Foley, an American aid worker, in Amman in 2002.

The US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, last year accused Zarqawi of leading a "deadly terrorist network" which plotted terror attacks in Europe and of having links to Saddam Hussein..

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