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Possible new al-Zarqawi recording emerges

Message posted on Islamist Web site urges 'jihad'


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Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is shown in this file photo.
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(CNN) -- A new audio recording purportedly from wanted terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi urges insurgents in Iraq to press on with jihad and "burn the earth under the invaders."

"To the heroes of Falluja, I pray to God to give you victory in your jihad," a voice on the recording says.

The recording surfaced Friday on an Islamist Web site frequently used by Iraqi insurgents. CNN has been unable to authenticate the recording, and it was unclear when it was made. There are no references in the recording to specific dates, though the voice mentions fighting in Falluja in a general sense.

Falluja is the Iraqi city in the so-called "Sunni Triangle," home to significant anti-U.S. violence, where U.S.-led forces launched an offensive earlier this week to root out insurgents.

An intelligence official said the intelligence community is conducting a technical review of the recording to determine whether the voice is that of al-Zarqawi.

U.S. officials have offered a $25 million reward for al-Zarqawi's capture. He is suspected in about a dozen high-profile attacks in Iraq, including the bombing last year of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, which killed 22 civilians, including the U.N.'s chief envoy to Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello.

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. In October, a statement attributed to a group linked to al-Zarqawi pledged allegiance to bin Laden. (Full story)

U.S. and Iraqi authorities have said it was believed that al-Zarqawi's terror network was based in Falluja, but they have acknowledged the group's leaders likely left the city ahead of the offensive.

The voice in the recording criticizes Iraqi Kurdish fighters and Shiite Muslims for cooperating with U.S. soldiers on the battlefield. About 2,000 Iraqis are fighting alongside the approximately 10,000 U.S. Marines and soldiers in Falluja.

"I talk to you my nation as the bloods of your sons are flowing in Iraq and in Falluja especially," the voice says. "This is a call for the heroes in Iraq. Go and help your brethren, because this battle is a decisive battle in the history of Islam and disbelief. Be like one person and be like the lion anticipating to jump on its prey."

Earlier this week, the U.S. and Iraqi forces found what commanders called a hostage "slaughterhouse" in Falluja where militants beheaded their captors. Intelligence officials have said al-Zarqawi's group is responsible for beheading numerous hostages, including British and American victims.


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