US suspect for Iraq bombings 'is dead'

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As Iraq continued to mourn those killed on Tuesday in Karbala and Baghdad, there was confusion yesterday over who was behind the attacks.

The US blamed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an al-Qa'ida associate, but a leaflet appeared yesterday in Fallujah claiming he was killed months ago.

The violence continued, with reports of at least three killed in an attack on a telephone exchange. US forces arrested 14 Iraqis, including a man they said was a former Baathist official under the Saddam regime, now leading a militant group of Wahhabi Sunni extremists.

Within hours of Tuesday's attacks, the US claimed they bore all the hallmarks of Mr Zarqawi. The attacks came only weeks after America leaked what it claimed was an intercepted message from Mr Zarqawi to al-Qa'ida leaders in Afghanistan asking for help setting up attacks against Iraq's Shia. The plan was to provoke Shia reprisals against Iraq's Sunni that would lead to civil war.

Whatever the truth, someone appears to be going to great lengths to deny the US claims that al-Qa'ida and Mr Zarqawi carried out the attacks to provoke a civil war.

The US dismissed the leaflet as "patently untrue". But officials have yet to come up with evidence to back their assertions that Mr Zarqawi is the guilty man.