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Tape: Al-Zarqawi claims responsibility for wave of attacks

From Jim Clancy and Pam Benson
CNN

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The Bush administration has said Abu Musab al-Zarqawi fled Afghanistan for medical treatment in Iraq.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Fugitive terrorism suspect Abu Musab al-Zarqawi claimed responsibility Tuesday for a wave of attacks targeting U.S. and other coalition forces since Americans took control of Baghdad almost a year ago.

Although there was speculation as to the authenticity of the audio tape which was published on a Web site, Middle Eastern intelligence sources familiar with al-Zarqawi report that the tape is "100 percent genuine."

Al-Zarqawi claimed credit for a score of attacks on coalition forces, including the August 19 bombing of U.N. headquarters in Baghdad that killed 23 civilians including the U.N.'s chief envoy to Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

Targets al-Zarqawi claimed responsibility for attacking include "the coalition forces in Karbala, the Italians in Nasiriya, the American forces in the Al-Khaldiya Bridge, the American intelligence in the Al-Shahine Hotel, the CPA in Baghdad, the CIA in the Al-Rashid Hotel, and the Polish military in Al-Hilla."

Al-Zarqawi was especially hostile toward the Shiite majority, calling them "idolaters" and traitors who allied themselves with "the enemies of Islam to seize control over Sunni Iraq."

The tape also contained threats to assassinate Gen. John Abizaid, commander of the U.S. Central Command in Iraq and Paul Bremer, the top U.S. civilian administrator in Iraq.

A U.S. official said Tuesday that al-Zarqawi traveled to Baghdad in May 2002 for treatment of a leg injury but, contrary to previous reports, appears not to have had a leg amputated. The official would not discuss the reason for the change in assessment.

Al-Zarqawi, an associate of Osama bin Laden, had been named by the Bush administration as an al Qaeda member who fled to Iraq from Afghanistan in May 2002 for medical treatment and then stayed to organize terror plots. He came to Iraq with about two dozen al Qaeda terrorists, according to the administration.

Before the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, President Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell and other administration officials pointed to intelligence that they said suggested al-Zarqawi had had his leg amputated in Baghdad.

A senior U.S. military officer in Iraq said the new information followed an investigation and came from some of al-Zarqawi's supporters who are in custody.


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