Iraq PM shrugs off death threats
Coalition: Al-Zarqawi 'most important terrorist target'
BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq's Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi has shrugged off two death threats delivered via television and the Internet Wednesday, saying he remains determined to bring democracy to Iraq.
The latest threat, contained in a videotape broadcast by the Arabic-language television station Al-Arabiya, came from a previously unidentified group that called itself Group of Jihad and Resistance.
On the videotape 10 people -- dressed in black and holding weapons, their faces obscured by scarves -- stood behind an 11th person who read a statement threatening to kill Allawi and members of his government if he follows through on his threat to impose martial law if the current unrest continued.
An earlier threat came on an audiotape believed to have been recorded by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Iraqi insurgency leader blamed for several attacks against U.S. forces and Iraqi civilians.
The prime minister shrugged off the tough talk, which included claims that he had been targeted in the past for assassination.
Allawi's spokesman, Georgis Sada, told CNN in a telephone interview that Allawi smiled and said: "Zarqawi is not the enemy of Iyad Allawi only, but he is the enemy of all Iraqis."
The audio message was posted on a Web site that has previously aired statements and video from al-Zarqawi's terrorist group.
CNN terrorism experts said the voice appeared to be al-Zarqawi's, but the CIA has not authenticated the tape.
The voice threatened to continue attacks against coalition troops, Iraqi security forces and the interim Iraqi government, and to kill Allawi.
"As for you Allawi, the supposedly democratically elected prime minister, we have prepared something very special for you," the voice on the tape said.
"We have prepared a special poison for you and a sharp sword and we have filled a glass for you and we have filled a glass with death especially for you.
"You don't even know how you have repeatedly escaped from our many attempts, but we promise you we will continue the match with you until the end," the voice said.
The message also referred to the assassination last month of Izzedine Salim, head of the now-disbanded Iraqi Governing Council. The al-Zarqawi network was blamed for that killing.
"We won't stop until we make you drink from the same glass that Izzedine Salim drank from or until we die," the voice on the tape said.
Allawi -- who was handpicked by U.S. and U.N. officials to lead the interim government until elections scheduled to be held in January -- said al-Zarqawi must know that conditions will change for insurgents after Iraq achieves sovereignty.
He said the Iraqis know how to defend themselves and their country, and that Iraq's march to democracy will succeed. But he acknowledged it will anger the insurgency.
'We'll kill them if we have to'
Al-Zarqawi is blamed for several attacks on U.S. forces and Iraqi civilians.
Coalition spokesman Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt called Jordanian-born al-Zarqawi "the most important terrorist target in Iraq today," and said one of the top coalition goals is to shut down his network.
Kimmitt said al-Zarqawi is responsible for a number of car bombs, is believed to have admitted to killing American businessman Nicholas Berg, and "probably has a significant responsibility for the killing of the Korean hostage."
The beheaded body of Kim Sun-il, 33, a translator for a South Korean company, was found Tuesday in Baghdad.
"This guy [al-Zarqawi] has been responsible for a campaign of intimidation throughout this country, he's responsible for trying to promote an atmosphere of fear throughout this country," Kimmitt said.
Kimmitt said al-Zarqawi's plan, as revealed in a letter intercepted by the coalition in February, is to disrupt Iraq's drive to democracy.
"He is intentionally trying to drive a wedge between the different sects within this country, between the Shias and the Sunnis," he said. "He is a Sunni, and he believes that the Shias are even worse than Christians.
"He is intentionally trying to promote a civil war, fracture this country and try to create a Taliban-like nation, one that knows nothing but chaos."
Coalition forces Tuesday night conducted the second strike within a week on a site in Fallujah they say was a safe house linked to al-Zarqawi's network.
A previous coalition strike days earlier left 18 people dead at a suspected Zarqawi safe house in Fallujah, where large amounts of ammunition were being stored.
Pentagon officials said the strikes did not target al-Zarqawi directly, but were aimed at targets known to be connected to the terrorist leader.
One of the coalition's top priorities, Kimmitt said, is to shut down the al-Zarqawi network.
"We'll capture them if we have to; we'll kill them if we have to," he said.
Kimmitt cautioned, however, that even if al-Zarqawi was killed soon, "it wouldn't end the violence."
"Like the capture of Saddam [Hussein], it would bring the violence down significantly, but it wouldn't end it until we sort of eliminated his entire terrorist network and all the other terrorists that we know are operating inside this country."