Leaflet Says Extremist Al-Zarqawi Killed
By LEE KEATH
The Associated Press
Thursday, March 4, 2004; 10:10 AM
BAGHDAD, Iraq - A Jordanian extremist suspected of bloody suicide attacks in Iraq was killed some time ago in U.S. bombings and a letter outlining plans for fomenting sectarian war is a forgery, a leaflet signed by a dozen alleged insurgent groups said. A senior U.S. official denied that claim.
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in the Sulaimaniyah mountains of northern Iraq "during the American bombing there," according to the eight-page leaflet circulated this week in Fallujah, a city 30 miles west of Baghdad that is a hotbed of anti-U.S. insurgency activity.
There was no way to verify the authenticity of the leaflet. It was signed by 12 groups, including several cited by U.S. officials in the past including the Ansar al-Sunna Army and Muhammad's Army.
It said al-Zarqawi was unable to escape the bombing because of his artificial leg.
The leaflet did not say when al-Zarqawi was supposedly killed, but U.S. jets bombed strongholds of the extremist Ansar al-Islam in the north last April as Saddam Hussein's regime was collapsing.
A senior U.S. official said the claim al-Zarqawi is dead was false and that the United States had information showing the Jordanian militant was alive well after the bombing campaign.
In al-Zarqawi's hometown in Jordan, an associate of his family told The Associated Press that according to the family, al-Zarqawi had been in contact with his mother until four months ago, when the communication ended after police came to question the mother.
In a telephone call Thursday to the family home, a woman answered and said, "He's not in contact with us. We don't know anything about him. Don't call again." She then hung up.
Before the Iraq conflict began last March, Secretary of State Colin Powell said al-Zarqawi received hospital treatment in Baghdad after fleeing Afghanistan.
U.S. intelligence sources said he apparently was fitted with an artificial leg. He was believed to have taken refuge in northern Iraq before the U.S.-led invasion, and then possibly moved on to Iran. It was widely believed that he then was still coordinating closely with Ansar al-Islam in Kurdish areas.
In February, the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq made public an intercepted letter it said was written by al-Zarqawi to al-Qaida leaders, detailing a strategy of spectacular attacks to derail the planned June 30 handover of power to the Iraqis. U.S. officials say al-Zarqawi may have been involved in some of the series of suicide bombings this year in Iraq.
The leaflet in Fallujah said the "fabricated al-Zarqawi memo" has been used by the U.S.-run coalition "to back up their theory of a civil war" in Iraq.
"The truth is, al-Qaida is not present in Iraq," the leaflet said. Though many Arabs entered the country to fight U.S. troops, only a small number remain, the group said.
"We had to help hundreds of them leave for their own protection because they were only a burden on the resistance. It was difficult to hide them" from Iraqi informers cooperating with U.S. forces, it said.
© 2004 The Associated Press