Monday, June 28, 2004

Abu Musab Zarqawi is using the Internet to recruit more terrorists and get money to finance his insurgency against the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, according to a senior coalition military official.

The official said Zarqawi also remains “a significant threat” to the Iraqi authorities and is trying to prevent an effective government from emerging, according to the official in Iraq, who disclosed an intelligence assessment of Zarqawi on the condition of anonymity.

“Zarqawi continues to easily use the Internet and media to get his message across both to recruit new fighters and obtain resources such as money, along with getting out his political intimidation statements and threats against the coalition, the Iraqi government and any civilian organization or company supporting the rebuilding of Iraq,” the official said.

Other U.S. intelligence officials said leaders of Saddam Hussein’s deposed regime are using Syria as a base for providing support to anticoalition fighters in Iraq. The support includes money, weapons, explosives and expertise.

Zarqawi’s terrorist methods follow asymmetric warfare techniques, including terrorist actions designed to shock, such as kidnappings, assassinations and large-scale bombing or shooting attacks.

“He and his group remain a significant threat to the fledgling interim Iraqi government and their security services,” the official said. “He is likely attempting to increase the tempo of his terrorist operations in order to destabilize the Iraqi interim government and prevent the Iraqi security services from becoming a viable entity.

“He realizes that if the interim Iraqi government and their security services become effective, then he and his group will likely be defeated in Iraq,” the official said.

U.S. officials think Zarqawi was the hooded terrorist who beheaded U.S. contractor Nicholas Berg on videotape. His group also videotaped the execution-style killing of South Korean translator Kim Sun-il. Both videotapes were posted on Islamist Web sites and circulated worldwide.

Last week, Zarqawi also said he planned to assassinate Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. The audiotaped message was posted on an Internet site.

The U.S. government has moved quickly to shut down Web sites being used by Islamist terrorists. However, Zarqawi has been able to find numerous Internet outlets to get audio and video messages out, often without the knowledge of the Internet service providers.

U.S. intelligence agencies also have used the Internet to track down terrorists, either through their supporters or through their communications. The gathering of intelligence from Islamist Web sites is one reason they often are not shut down after their use as a communications channel is discovered.

U.S. officials said terrorists from Iraq and Saudi Arabia, where a U.S. contractor also was killed recently, have used two Arabic language Web sites. One is, and the other is called Symphoniyat Loli Nagham al-Mawaqi al-Arabiyah. A third site that has been used in the past by Islamists is a British portal to Lycos.

Other Web sites are usually paid for by foreign Web site owners, who give space to those who access the site.

Islamist terrorists such as Zarqawi use the sites to post messages, photographs or video clips at these sites, officials said. They also use e-mail to send messages and images to a clandestine supporter in a foreign country, who then posts the material on the Internet.

According to the coalition military official, Zarqawi’s followers are “relatively few” in number and are estimated to be in the hundreds, not thousands.

The Jordanian-born Zarqawi “gathers foreigners from throughout the Muslim world to his cause,” the official said.

“To date, we have seen relatively few true foreigners fighting in Iraq. However, it takes relatively few to commit spectacular acts,” the official said.

Most of the several thousand foreign fighters in Iraq crossed into the country during the beginning of the U.S.-led military operation to oust Saddam, and most died in battles with U.S. forces in southern Iraq or fled, the official said.

Zarqawi, however, has managed to attract “small numbers of religious extremists who are recruited generally from mosques or through the Internet,” the official said.

“These are predominantly young men who hear the call to do their religious duty and take up Jihad,” the official said. “Some of Zarqawi’s fighters likely come from Saudi Arabia, Syria, Kuwait and other Muslim countries along with extremist Kurds who he was associated with from Ansar al Islam.”

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