- The Washington Times - Friday, May 5, 2006

The U.S. command in Iraq yesterday attempted to puncture the invincible aura of Abu Musab Zarqawi by showing a captured videotape of the terror leader fumbling with a machine gun and surrounded by bumbling aides.

At his weekly press briefing in Baghdad, Army Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch aired the outtakes of Zarqawi’s most recent Internet recruitment ad, which had depicted him in warrior splendor.

The blooper tape has Zarqawi, the head of al Qaeda in Iraq and organizer of mass-death suicide bombings, clumsily trying to move a machine gun into rapid-fire mode.

“He looks down. Can’t figure it out,” Gen. Lynch said, identifying the terror master’s footwear as New Balance tennis shoes. It was obtained in a raid of a foreign fighter safe house.

Finally, a lieutenant walks over and unjams the gun. Zarqawi fires into the open desert. The shot over, he hands the smoking gun to a group of subordinates. As they walk away, one grabs the hot muzzle, burning himself.

The outtakes come less than two weeks after Zarqawi released the propaganda video. Dressed in bulletproof vest and flawlessly firing a U.S. M249 light machine gun, he vows to kill any Iraqi who joined the democratic government’s security forces.

The 34-minute Internet clip is clearly a recruiting ad designed to entice more Arabs to join the jihad in Iraq and strap on a suicide bomber’s vest.

Gen. Lynch’s presentation was meant to diminish Zarqawi in the eyes of the Arab world, from where Zarqawi recruits his killers.

“It makes you wonder,” Gen. Lynch told reporters. “We study the enemy.”

Gen. Lynch disclosed that allied forces seized the full Zarqawi tape, as well as planning documents and maps of Baghdad made using Google, in an April 8 raid in Youssifiyah, south of the capital. Troops killed five jihadists, he said.

U.S. intelligence and commando teams have been hunting Zarqawi since the allies ousted Saddam Hussein in April 2003. The Jordanian-born Zarqawi has pledged allegiance to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who has directed him to stop the new Iraqi government at all costs and set up a harsh Sunni Muslim rule that can then spread through the Middle East.

“The end state for Zarqawi is no democratic state in Iraq,” Gen. Lynch said.

He portrayed the Zarqawi-issued tape as “an act of desperation” for a man who has failed to stop three national elections and the formation of a parliamentary government.

The seized documents show that Zarqawi has shifted most of his foreign fighters to Baghdad with an aim of killing many Shi’ites in hopes the population will turn on Sunni Muslims in a civil war.

“His personal location is probably close to those operations,” Gen. Lynch said. “It’s just a matter of time before we take him out.”

The April 8 raid netted information about another jihadist safe house north of Baghdad where more foreign fighters were killed and captured.

“They tend to provide actionable intelligence,” Gen. Lynch said. “Loyalty is not their strong suit.”

He said al Qaeda in Iraq is organized in three tiers: top Zarqawi lieutenants; local leaders or emirs; and local cells. He said the coalition has killed 161 of the top two tiers. Some have been tried in Iraqi courts and sentenced to death.

Most foreign fighters continue to enter Iraq through Syria. But better border control and raids such as the ones last month have reduced their numbers. The command said there are about 25 suicide attacks a month now, compared with 75 a year ago.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide