- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 19, 2003

From combined dispatches

BAGHDAD — Al Jazeera broadcast an audiotape purportedly from Osama bin Laden yesterday vowing more suicide attacks inside and outside the United States and warning that all countries backing Washington over Iraq were targets.

In the holy city of Karbala in central Iraq, where three U.S. soldiers were killed in a firefight Thursday night, troops sealed off roads around the house of a Shi’ite cleric.

West of Baghdad, U.S. troops and Iraqi police arrested 11 persons, three of them women, who were suspected of links to attacks against U.S. soldiers, witnesses said.

The speaker on the purported bin Laden tape — broke up into two parts, one addressed to Americans and the other to Iraqis — urged Iraqis to wage a holy war against American “crusaders” until an Islamic government is set up in Baghdad.

“We reserve the right to respond at the appropriate time and place against all the countries participating in this unjust war, particularly Britain, Spain, Australia, Poland, Japan and Italy,” the speaker said.

He added there would be “no exception for those participating from the countries of the Islamic world, and the [Persian] Gulf, especially Kuwait.”

This is the first tape purportedly from al Qaeda leaders since one released on the eve of the second anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks. The new message comes as President Bush is on a tour of Asian nations rallying allies in the war on terrorism.

“We, God willing, will continue to fight you and will continue [suicide] operations inside and outside the United States until you abandon your oppression and foolish acts,” the speaker said in the part targeted at Americans.

Addressing U.S. troops in Iraq, he said: “Your blood will be spilled so the White House gang gets richer and the arms dealers with them, as well as the large companies involved.”

It was not immediately possible to independently verify the authenticity of the tapes, but the voice and style of speech were similar to bin Laden’s.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the tapes are “a reminder that the global war on terror continues. Terrorists are enemies of the civilized world. … That’s why we are taking the fight to the killers and bringing them to justice.”

Mr. McClellan, accompanying Mr. Bush at an Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Bangkok, said U.S. authorities would analyze the tapes.

The message apparently was recorded before early September, because the speaker refers to the government of former Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, who resigned Sept. 6.

Meanwhile in Karbala, soldiers surrounded the buildings used by local cleric Ayatollah Mahmoud al-Hassani with armored vehicles and helicopters circled overhead.

Three U.S. military police and two Iraqi police were killed Thursday night in fighting in the city, which U.S. forces blamed on supporters of Ayatollah al-Hassani, himself a sympathizer of radical Shi’ite leader Muqtada al-Sadr, who opposes the U.S.-led coalition.

The dead included Lt. Col. Kim S. Orlando, 43, commander of the 716th Military Police Battalion, the highest-ranking U.S. officer killed since the war began March 20.

The latest deaths raised to 101 the number of U.S. soldiers who have died by hostile fire since Mr. Bush declared an end to major combat on May 1.

In Baghdad, supporters of Sheik al-Sadr complained that 12 members of a neighborhood council they had selected to replace one appointed by the coalition had been arrested. Coalition spokesman Charles Heatly confirmed that a dozen al-Sadr “loyalists” were arrested Thursday after they illegally took over a district council building.

Shi’ites are in the majority in Iraq and were repressed by Saddam Hussein, a Sunni. Moderate Shi’ite leaders have advocated cautious cooperation with the coalition forces. Most attacks on U.S. forces have occurred in the so-called “Sunni Triangle” north and west of Baghdad.

In that region yesterday, U.S. forces sealed off the area around Khaldiyah, 50 miles west of Baghdad, and arrested eight men and three women on suspicion of links to the resistance, local residents said. There was no comment from U.S. authorities about the raids.

Meanwhile, efforts to resume vital oil exports from northern Iraq — halted for weeks by sabotage — stumbled once more yesterday when the main pipeline to Turkey sprang a leak, Turkish officials said.

Also yesterday, the Dutch Defense Ministry reported that Dutch marines clearing munitions in southern Iraq have called in British and American weapons inspectors after finding “a few dozen suspect shells.” The 130 mm artillery shells found Oct. 8 showed “several indications of some kind of chemical reaction,” a Dutch spokesman said, although he added they could be regular munitions discolored by heat and sun.

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