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Militant group threatens death for al-Zarqawi

A masked militant reads a statement in this image from a video broadcast Tuesday on Al-Arabiya.
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Group in Iraq threatens to kill terror suspect Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Brother: Marine Cpl. Wassef Hassoun has been "released."

Iraqis consider ways to protect witnesses whom militants could target.
• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide

BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- A previously unknown militant group in Iraq is threatening to kill the most-wanted terror suspect in that country: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

The Arabic-language TV network Al-Arabiya said it received a taped statement from an organization that calls itself the Rescue Group warning al-Zarqawi and his followers to leave Iraq or face the consequences.

One masked militant read a statement denouncing the actions by al-Zarqawi and his followers as hurtful to Iraq, particularly the kidnapping of foreigners.

The group has called for the killing of the Jordanian-born al-Zarqawi if he doesn't leave Iraq.

Coalition officials blame al-Zarqawi for dozens of attacks on coalition forces and Iraqi civilians. The United States recently raised the bounty on his head to $25 million.

Al-Zarqawi is also believed to be behind the beheading of two hostages in Iraq, an American and a South Korean.

Meanwhile, the brother of a U.S. Marine who has been taken hostage in Iraq asserted Tuesday that Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun has been freed.

Sami Hassoun, speaking from Tripoli, Lebanon, said there is clear "sign" that his brother is "alive" and has been "released." (Full story)

Four Marines killed

Four Marines were killed Tuesday in Anbar province, Iraq, a coalition press statement said.

The statement said the Marines were assigned to the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force.

Earlier, the Coalition Public Information Center said two Marines from the same unit were killed in action Monday in Anbar province. Another Marine who was wounded during operations in the province later died of his injuries.

Anbar, which runs to the Syrian and Jordanian borders, is a hotbed for Iraqi insurgents and includes the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah.

The Marine deaths bring the total number of U.S. troops who have died in the war to 872. The total number of multinational forces to die in the war now stands at 989.

The new interim government is working to find ways to fight back against the insurgency.

A 12-point Iraqi national security plan in the works would increase detention powers and the ability of the prime minister to mobilize the country's armed forces.

Also, a NATO official is conducting a fact-finding tour in Iraq to see what kind of military and police training help it can provide to the government.

Meanwhile, officials said eight people died Monday in a U.S. air raid on a Fallujah house that American commanders said was used to harbor Islamic militants.

A senior U.S. military official said the target was a group of people suspected of planning suicide attacks using vehicles.

The strike was the latest in a series of raids on the city to target what U.S. military spokesmen have called safe houses for the network led by al-Zarqawi.

A doctor at Fallujah Hospital said the dead included four men, a woman and three children, some of them members of the same family. Another three people were wounded, the doctor said.

Blair: WMD may never be found

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Tuesday that weapons of mass destruction may never be found in Iraq, but he insisted former leader Saddam Hussein had posed a threat to "the wider world."

"We know that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and we know that we haven't found them," Blair told a committee of British lawmakers Tuesday.

"I have to accept we have not found them, that we may not find them.

"But what I wouldn't accept is that [Saddam] was not a threat and a threat in WMD terms."

Blair and President Bush used Iraq's alleged weapons program as a main reason for invading the country. So far the Iraq Survey Group, which is in charge of the hunt for illicit weapons, has yet to turn up any stockpiles.

The British leader said evidence uncovered by the group showed that Saddam had the "strategic capability" and intent to use such weapons.

"Whether they were hidden or removed or destroyed even, the plain fact is that he was in breach of United Nations resolutions," Blair said.

Other developments

  • Iraqi security and U.S. forces detained two members of a suspected terrorist group Tuesday in sweeps through a neighborhood in Mosul, northern Iraq, that also uncovered bomb-making materials, machine guns and electronics equipment, a statement from the American-led military coalition said.
  • Also Tuesday, Iraqi Interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi reported losses in the country's power supply during the past three days and blamed the problem on insurgent attacks on pipelines and fuel trucks.
  • Soldiers of the U.S.-led multinational force fired on a vehicle that did not stop at a checkpoint late Monday in western Baghdad, killing a child and wounding another, the Coalition Press Information Center said. The statement said soldiers fired "after the driver failed to obey verbal and visual instructions to stop, switched off the vehicle lights, and forced guards out of the way as he attempted to bypass the checkpoint." Iraqi police questioned the children's father, the press center said, and the mother was taken to a hospital with the wounded child. Iraqi police are investigating.
  • CNN's Jane Arraf and Ingrid Formanek contributed to this report.

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