Thursday, December 30, 2004

BAGHDAD — The radical Ansar al-Sunnah Army and two other terrorist groups issued a statement yesterday, warning Iraqis not to vote in the Jan. 30 election because democracy is un-Islamic.

“Democracy is a Greek word meaning the rule of the people, which means that the people do what they see fit,” the groups said in a warning. “This concept is considered apostasy and defies the belief in one God — Muslims’ doctrine.”

Democracy leads to passing un-Islamic laws, such as permitting homosexual “marriage,” if the majority agrees, the terrorists said.

After the warning was issued, all 700 employees of the electoral commission in Mosul, Iraq, resigned, the Arab satellite channel Al Jazeera reported.

Farid Ayar, spokesman of the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq, said he was not able to confirm the Al Jazeera report.

“We have been trying to contact our people in Mosul to see if the report is accurate, but we have not been able to reach them,” Mr. Ayar told the Associated Press.

The warning came a day after insurgents in Mosul, which has seen increased violence in recent weeks, launched a highly coordinated assault on a U.S. military outpost.

The United States said 25 insurgents were thought to have been slain and one American soldier was killed in the battle, which involved strafing runs by U.S. warplanes.

The United States, which has said the vote must go forward, repeatedly has sought to portray recent attacks that have killed dozens of people as the acts of a reeling insurgency, not the work of a force that is gathering strength.

Ansar al-Sunnah earlier posted a manifesto on its Web site saying democracy amounts to idolizing human beings. Yesterday’s joint statement reiterated the threat that “anyone who accepts to take part in this dirty farce will not be safe.”

A message this week from Osama bin Laden, the terrorist mastermind and a spiritual leader for millions of Muslims, branded anyone who votes in Iraq as an “infidel.”

Insurgents have intensified their strikes against the security forces of Iraq’s U.S.-installed interim government as part of a continuing campaign to disrupt the elections for a constitutional assembly.

The statements by the Sunni-dominated insurgent groups seemed aimed at countering Shi’ite leaders’ claims that voting in the election is every Muslim’s duty.

Shi’ite Islam includes a strong historic tradition of people rising up to oust corrupt leaders who deviate from Islam.

Shi’ites, who make up 60 percent of the population, hope to use the vote to gain power from minority Sunnis, who were favored under former dictator Saddam Hussein.

Iraqis will elect a national assembly, which will write a new constitution.

Mosul, Iraq’s third-largest city, has become more worrisome in the weeks since a U.S.-led invasion routed insurgents from their base in the Sunni-dominated city of Fallujah in mid-November.

Across Iraq, dozens of insurgents, Iraqi civilians and security forces have been killed in attacks in the past 48 hours, and the guerrillas have shown new ingenuity to inflict large casualties.

Thirteen U.S. soldiers died Dec. 21 when a suicide bomber walked into a mess tent in Mosul packed with soldiers having lunch. In all, 22 persons were killed and dozens wounded in the blast. The Ansar al-Sunnah took responsibility.

Late Tuesday, rebels lured police into a house in Baghdad after issuing an anonymous tip and then detonated nearly a ton of explosives. Twenty-nine persons were killed, 22 civilians and seven police, and several surrounding houses were leveled.

Mohammed Salah, a Cairo-based expert on Islamic militancy, suggested that insurgents might be experimenting with new tactics to test the Americans after the guerrillas lost their stronghold in Fallujah, west of Baghdad.

Up to now, their chief weapons have been roadside bombs and suicide attacks.

“Since they are always pursued, they try to be creative,” Mr. Salah said. “They have to be creative because they know repetitiveness is dangerous for them.”

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