- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 19, 2007

CAIRO — A Sunni insurgent coalition posted videos on the Internet yesterday naming the head of al Qaeda in Iraq as “minister of war” and showing the execution of 20 men it said were members of the Iraqi military and security forces.

The Islamic State of Iraq is a coalition of eight insurgent groups, the most powerful of them al Qaeda in Iraq. It was first announced in October, claiming to hold territory in the Sunni-dominated areas of western and central Iraq.

In the video, a man identified as a spokesman for the group appeared, with his face obscured, speaking from behind a desk with a flat-screen computer.

“It is the duty at our present stage to form this Cabinet, the first Islamic Cabinet, which has faith in God,” said the spokesman, wearing robes and a red headdress.

He denounced Iraq’s rulers for the past decades — including Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party and the present government — saying they “spread corruption and ruined the country and its people, until God helped the mujahedeen bring torture upon them.”

“Now the Islamic State emerges as a state for Islam and the mujahedeen,” he said.

He then listed a 10-member “Cabinet,” including Abu Hamza al-Muhajer as “war minister.” Al-Muhajer is the name of the person announced as the successor of Abu Musab Zarqawi, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq who was killed in the summer of 2006. The U.S. military and Iraqi government have identified him by another pseudonym, Abu Ayyub al-Masri.

The names listed by the spokesman were all pseudonyms and their real names were not known — though the pseudonyms included the names of some major Sunni Arab tribes.

The Islamic State is led by Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, who holds the title of “emir of the faithful.”

Sheik Abu Abdul-Rahman al-Falahi was named as the emir’s “first minister,” the spokesman said. Other positions included ministers of information, “prisoners and martyrs,” agriculture and health.

The group is blamed for some of the deadliest suicide bombings against Shi’ite civilians, as well as numerous attacks on U.S. troops and Iraqi soldiers and police. The U.S. military has blamed it for a devastating bombing Wednesday in Baghdad’s Sadriyah market that left more than 200 people dead.

Yesterday’s message came hours after another video from al Qaeda in Iraq showing a masked gunman walking down a row of men, blindfolded and bound, shooting each in the head.

The video purported to show 20 Iraqi police and soldiers that the Islamic State in Iraq claimed six days earlier to have kidnapped northwest of Baghdad. It had threatened to kill them after 48 hours unless the government freed female prisoners and handed over police accused of rapes in the northern town of Tal Afar.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates arrived in Baghdad yesterday on a visit to warn Iraqi leaders that the U.S. commitment to a military buildup there is not open-ended.

“I’m sympathetic with some of the challenges that they face,” Mr. Gates said of the Iraqis. But, he said, “the clock is ticking.”

At least 46 Iraqis were killed or found dead nationwide yesterday.

Two U.S. soldiers killed Wednesday by a roadside bomb north of the capital, and another U.S. soldier was killed in a attack in southwest Baghdad.

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