- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 11, 2006

BAGHDAD — Insurgents signaled the fight is still on after Abu Musab Zarqawi’s death, posting an Internet video yesterday showing the beheading of three purported Shi’ite death squad members in revenge for killing Sunnis.

The video — as grisly as any the al Qaeda in Iraq leader issued — was clearly designed to quash hopes that the Sunni-dominated insurgency might change tactics by ending attacks on Shi’ite civilians and institutions, especially the police.

Fellow Sunni insurgent groups sent condolences for Zarqawi in Internet messages yesterday and warned Sunnis not to cooperate with the Iraqi government, an apparent call for unity three days after U.S. forces killed the terror leader in a targeted air strike.

The condolence statements came from the al Qaeda-linked Ansar al-Sunnah — the group that posted the beheading video on a militant Web site — and the leader of the Mujahedeen Shura Council, an umbrella organization of five insurgent groups, including al Qaeda in Iraq, which Zarqawi helped found last year.

“Iraq is the front defense line for Islam and Muslims, so don’t fail to follow the path of the mujahedeen (holy warriors), the caravan of martyrs and the faithful,” said Abdullah bin Rashid al-Baghdadi, the Shura Council leader.

He vowed: “As for you, the slaves of the cross (coalition forces), the grandsons of Ibn al-Alqami (Shi’ites), and every infidel of the Sunnis, we can’t wait to sever your necks with our swords.”

Across Iraq, at least 24 persons were killed yesterday in incidents that included a number of sectarian attacks.

The U.S. military flew in two forensic specialists yesterday to examine the remains of Zarqawi “to see how he actually died” and to reconstruct the last minutes of his life, a spokesman said.

The examination takes place after U.S. authorities altered their initial account of Zarqawi’s death, first saying he died outright in the U.S. air strike, then saying he survived but died soon after. Also, an Iraqi man raised fresh questions, telling Associated Press Television News that he saw U.S. soldiers beating an injured man resembling Zarqawi until blood flowed from his nose.

Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Baghdad, said the decision to fly in forensic specialists was made shortly after Zarqawi’s death.

Asked about the claim that U.S. soldiers may have beaten Zarqawi after the attack, he said he would check. In Washington, Pentagon spokesman Jeffrey Gordon said he was unaware of the claim.

The air strike also killed Zarqawi’s spiritual adviser, two men, two women and a girl estimated between the ages of 5 and 7.

The video, the first known footage of beheadings to be posted by any insurgent group in months, was possibly timed to make clear to the U.S. and Iraqi governments that there will be no change in tactics even though Zarqawi is gone.

The 15-minute video showed three men in military uniform, with their hands bound behind their backs. Under questioning, the men said they were members of the “Wolf Brigade,” a special Iraqi police commando unit that Sunnis accuse of being a front for Shi’ite militiamen who kill Sunni Arabs.

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