- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 3, 2005

A letter to terrorist Abu Musab Zarqawi from a key lieutenant complains of low morale and incompetent leaders in waging war against American and Iraqi government troops in Iraq.

The U.S. military recovered the letter in a Baghdad raid last week and released a translated version yesterday. Officials said the letter shows Zarqawi’s al Qaeda organization in Iraq may be weakening.

The network principally relies on foreign jihadists to drive bomb-laden vehicles near mosques, schools, military recruiting centers, open-air markets and other targets. The suicide attackers stepped up bombings in the past two weeks, killing scores of Iraqis.

The letter was written in Arabic by Abu Asim al Qusayami al Yemeni, a veteran terrorist in Zarqawi’s network who fought in Fallujah last fall.

He wrote to Zarqawi that he could no longer trust people who say they were representatives of the terror master and wanted a face-to-face meeting to discuss setbacks. It is not clear whether Yemeni believed there were traitors within the organization who wanted to capitalize on a coalition reward of $25 million for information leading to the capture or killing of Zarqawi.

The letter, dated April 27, was seized in a raid on a house in Baghdad that also netted the coalition other documents, including a list of possible targets.

“The morale has weakened and lines of the mujahidin have become separated due to some leaders’ action,” Yemeni wrote. “God does not accept such actions and that will delay victory. We do have big mistakes where some of us have been discarded.”

Yemeni quoted one leader as telling recruits “you carry out a martyr [suic[]ide] operation or go back to your family.”

He said he wanted a meeting to verify whether that order came from Zarqawi.

“Some of the brothers had returned back, some were recorded as martyred and the rest were hanging around and did not know what to do, besides they were humiliated and immorally treated,” Yemeni wrote.

He said Zarqawi used to visit his fighters in Fallujah before a joint U.S. Marine and Army force captured the city in November in fierce building-by-building fighting.

U.S. officials have told The Washington Times that Zarqawi fled the city well before the November assault. As of last week, Zarqawi was believed to be back in western Iraq.

Marines and special-operations troops came within minutes of capturing Zarqawi near Ramadi in February. A tip led forces to his hideout, but he and senior lieutenants left before the raid and traveled in a convoy spotted by a Predator drone. By the time troops stopped the convoy, Zarqawi had leapt from a truck and escaped.

With Zarqawi on the run, he has left day-to-day operations up to leaders of his various cells.

“We have leaders that are not capable of being good leaders,” Yemeni wrote. “We are not accusing them without reason, but we have tested them and found them incapable.”

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