- The Washington Times - Friday, October 7, 2005


Iraq’s al Qaeda leader Abu Musab Zarqawi said militants were justified under Islam in killing civilians as long as they are infidels, according to a new audiotape attributed to him yesterday.

“Islam does not differentiate between civilians and military, but rather distinguishes between Muslims and infidels,” said the man on the tape posted on the Internet, who sounded like Zarqawi.

“Muslim blood must be spared … but it is permissible to spill infidel blood,” said the speaker.

The comments appeared a day after the Pentagon said it had obtained a letter to Zarqawi from al Qaeda’s second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahri, saying tactics being used such as bombing mosques and killing hostages might alienate the Muslim masses.

“In this letter, he talks about believing that the eventual governance of Iraq must include the Muslim masses, and that they are at risk of alienating those,” Pentagon spokesman Brian Whitman told reporters in Washington.

Zarqawi’s group has been fighting U.S. forces and their Shi’ite allies, who gained power after the 2003 U.S.-led war ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.

Zarqawi has declared all-out war against the Shi’ites, about 60 percent of Iraq’s 25 million people, saying they were heretics who allied themselves with the enemies of Islam to seize control of Iraq.

Yesterday’s tape was posted on a Web site that usually carries statements and videotapes from al Qaeda’s wing in Iraq.

The speaker said the concept of jihad (“holy war”) was coming under distorting attacks by “the enemies of Islam” trying to portray it as a tool “for spreading bloodshed and destruction.”

“Many Muslims have been affected by this campaign, and they began shying away from using this term [jihad] for fear of being accused of terrorism. They instead replaced it with the term ‘resistance’ …

“This has tarnished jihad and its supporters and led to the inclusion of factions that have nothing to do with jihad, such as the rejectionist [Shi’ite] Hezbollah, Fatah movement and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine,” he said, referring to the Lebanese and Palestinian guerrilla groups.

“All this has been done under the pretext that whoever defends his country against the enemy and fights an occupier is involved in resistance, but jihad is much deeper than that.”

Zarqawi’s group has claimed responsibility for a series of killings, hostage beheadings and most major suicide bombings in Iraq, including the bombings of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad and the Shi’ite Imam Ali Mosque in Najaf.

In describing the letter a day earlier, the Pentagon’s Mr. Whitman said the United States considered the document authentic.

But he refused to say how, when or where it was obtained or by whom in order to protect “sources and methods” used.

Mr. Whitman described the letter as “recent,” but was not more precise.

Mr. Whitman declined to release the letter, which was in Arabic.

He also said al-Zawahri makes a plea to Zarqawi for financial support.

Mr. Whitman declined to say whether Zarqawi responded in any way to the letter.

“Zawahri says that they’ve lost many of their key leaders and that they’ve virtually resigned themselves to defeat in Afghanistan, that their lines of communication and funding have been severely disrupted.”

Mr. Whitman said the letter emphasizes that Muslim extremists intend to create a broad Islamic state centered on Iraq and expanding into neighboring Muslim countries.

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