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Iraq Transition

Purported al-Zarqawi tape addresses bin Laden

Suicide bombs kill at least 27 in Hilla south of Baghdad

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Insurgent leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi suffered only a minor combat wound and called on Osama bin Laden to put an unspecified plan into motion, according to an audiotaped statement attributed Monday to the Jordanian-born terrorist.

CNN has not confirmed the voice on the recording is al-Zarqawi's. The statement was posted on an Islamist Web site that has carried previous messages from al-Zarqawi and his group, al Qaeda in Iraq.

In Washington, a spokesman said the CIA could determine the recording's authenticity in a few days.

The statement, addressed to bin Laden, says rumors that al-Zarqawi was wounded seriously enough in combat to seek treatment at a hospital in the western Iraqi city of Ramadi "have no truth in them."

"I am now, thank God, between my brothers and family in Iraq, and I am practicing the battle against the Crusaders," the statement says.

In the recording, titled "A Letter from a Soldier to his Emir," the speaker calls on bin Laden to give the signal to put an unspecified plot into action.

"I believe that the plan has already reached you or is on its way, and we are waiting for your instructions," the speaker says.

The speaker blasts President Bush as "the dog of the yellow skin" and calls Iraqi President Jalal Talabani a "Zionist-American" and "the enemy of God."

"I challenge you if you are a man, to walk down the street in any part of Iraq," the speaker taunts Talabani.

The speaker also claims insurgents defeated U.S. troops during the recent offensive against insurgents in western Iraq near the Syrian border.

"During this battle, the legend of the Marines disappeared," the speaker says. "In 10 days of the battle, your sons managed to stand strongly against the Crusaders and to stop them on the walls of the city."

The speaker says a U.S. general was killed.

The U.S. military said nine Marines died in the operation -- none above the rank of staff sergeant -- and U.S. troops killed more than 125 insurgents and captured 39 others.

The Pentagon estimates al Qaeda in Iraq has fewer than 1,000 followers, but says it is responsible for some of the most deadly attacks on U.S. troops, Iraqi forces and civilians.

Al-Zarqawi pledged his allegiance to bin Laden in October. The United States considers him the most-wanted man in Iraq and has put a $25 million bounty on his capture or death.

Bombers hit Hilla police

A pair of suicide bombers wearing vests packed with explosives detonated themselves Monday in Hilla, killing 27 people -- many of them police -- and wounding 118, police said.

One bomber attacked outside the governor's office where former Iraqi police commandos were protesting their dismissals for supposedly lying on job applications.

The other suicide bombing occurred about 150 feet (50 meters) away near the Babil health center where police recruits were in line for physicals.

Hilla is about 60 miles (100 kilometers) south of Baghdad.

Meanwhile, Iraqi and U.S. forces arrested the head of the Iraqi Islamic Party and his three sons in a northwestern Baghdad neighborhood, police sources said.

Mohsen Abdul Hameed, a Sunni Arab and a former member of the now-defunct Iraqi Governing Council, and his sons were taken into custody during a 6 a.m. Monday operation in the Khadhra section of the capital.

U.S. and Iraqi forces later released Hameed after determining he had been "detained by mistake," according to a statement from the coalition press office.

Iraqi security forces and U.S. soldiers in Baghdad captured a former general in Saddam Hussein's intelligence network, a U.S. military statement said.

"The man captured was part of Saddam Hussein's intelligence network and was also involved with the Fedayeen, a criminal secret police organization of the old regime," the statement said.

The statement did not name the intelligence official, who it said was captured in raids early Sunday.

Iraqi military crash

An Iraqi air force plane with five people aboard crashed Monday while on a reconnaissance and surveillance mission in Iraq's eastern Diyala province, the U.S. military said.

The four Americans and one Iraqi aboard were presumed dead, said a U.S. military spokesman in Iraq. The crash site was secured by coalition forces, according to a news release from U.S. Central Command.

Other developments

  • Operation Lightning, a large-scale Iraqi-U.S. crackdown on insurgents in the Baghdad area, has begun, Air Force Gen. Richard Myers said Monday. As many as 40,000 Iraqi troops and police could be deployed in and around the capital. They will be backed by 10,000 American troops, U.S. officials said.
  • More than 140 car bombings occurred in May, according to a senior U.S. military intelligence official in Baghdad. That exceeds the previous record of 135 in April. There were nearly 60 suicide bombings in May, down from 69 in April, he said.
  • CNN's Ryan Chilcote, Arwa Damon, Enes Dulami, David Ensor, Caroline Faraj, Kianne Sadeq, Barbara Starr and Mohammad Tawfeeq contributed to this report.

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