- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 25, 2006

CAIRO — In a rare video posted yesterday on the Internet, al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab Zarqawi swore allegiance to Osama bin Laden and said any government formed in Iraq would be merely a “stooge.”

He also mocked the U.S. military in Iraq for what he called suicides, drug-taking and mutinies, and he warned that “worse” attacks were to come.

The video, released just days after Iraq named a new prime minister and a high-profile audiotape from bin Laden appeared on Arab television, seemed to be a deliberate attempt by Zarqawi to reclaim the spotlight after months of taking a lower profile.

One day earlier, a triple-bombing at a resort in Egypt killed at least 24 persons, including 21 Egyptians and three foreigners.

The video was thought to be the first to show Zarqawi’s face. The bearded, black-clothed terrorist leader, thought to be about 40, was in a flat desert landscape, dotted with scrub brush as if after a spring rain, that looked like Iraq’s western Anbar province.

The footage showed Zarqawi and about two-dozen other terrorists, masked and dressed in black uniforms, undergoing combat training.

In an indoor scene, Zarqawi was shown sitting with his lieutenants and Anbar’s insurgent commander, a caption in the video said. The men, sitting on traditional Arab cushions and mats, could be seen talking over a large map spread on the ground.

“Any government which is formed in Iraq now — whether by Shi’ites or Zionist Kurds, or those who are dubbed Sunnis — would only be a stooge,” Zarqawi said in the video. “They are a poisoned dagger in the heart of the Muslim nation.”

It has been just days since Iraq named a new prime minister and made progress toward forming a new government. In that sense, the video could be an attempt by the terrorist leader to raise his visibility at a time when U.S. officials are hailing the Iraqi political process as a setback for the insurgents.

Zarqawi also said the U.S. military was overwhelmed in Iraq.

“Why don’t you tell people that your soldiers are committing suicide, taking drugs and hallucination pills to make them sleep?” he asked, directing his words to President Bush.

“By God, your dreams will be defeated by our blood and by our bodies. What is coming is even worse,” he said.

Zarqawi has made numerous audiotapes, including one in January, but this is his first video in some time.

His message indicates the video was made in part to display unity among the foreign fighters in Iraq, and bring more members into the organization.

The videotaped appearance also appeared to contradict reports earlier this month that Zarqawi had been displaced by an Iraqi as leader of the terrorist organization in the country. The latest tape represents Zarqawi, a Jordanian, “trying to show that he is still in charge,” said a Bush administration official in Washington.

• Staff writer Rowan Scarborough contributed to this article.

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