In Video, Al Qaeda's No. 2 Tells Bush to Admit Defeat in Iraq

By Nelson Hernandez
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 7, 2006

BAGHDAD, Jan. 6 -- Al Qaeda's second-in-command said President Bush had admitted defeat in Iraq by announcing plans to reduce the American troop presence in the country, saying the move would be a victory for Islam.

Ayman Zawahiri's videotaped remarks, broadcast on al-Jazeera television Friday, came after two days of suicide bombings in Iraq killed almost 200 people, 11 of them U.S. soldiers. Al Qaeda's affiliate in Iraq is widely believed to have been behind the deadliest of the attacks.

"Bush, you must admit that you have been defeated in Iraq and that you are being defeated in Afghanistan and that you will soon be defeated in Palestine," Zawahiri said, according to a translation of his statement by the Washington-based SITE Institute.

Zawahiri, an Egyptian who is al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden's top lieutenant, warned Americans that "as long as you do not deal with Muslim nations with understanding and respect, you will still go from one disaster to another. And your calamity will not end, unless you leave our lands and stop stealing our resources and stop supporting the bad rulers in our countries."

News services quoted U.S. officials as saying the tape was probably authentic.

Maj. Gen. Stephen T. Johnson, commander of U.S. forces in Anbar province, blamed al Qaeda for what he called a "horrific" suicide bomb attack Thursday on Iraqi police applicants in the western city of Ramadi. While acknowledging he lacked any concrete evidence, he said in a briefing broadcast to reporters at the Pentagon that the attack "has all the markings of al Qaeda," such as the targeting of innocent civilians.

But Johnson disagreed that insurgents were concentrating their efforts on Ramadi, the Anbar capital, saying he had seen no "notable increase" in violence there. "I don't believe Ramadi has become a focal point for the insurgency," he said. "Ramadi is not in flames."

Spared major follow-up attacks Friday, Iraqis were preoccupied with recriminations on a day when it is the duty of Muslim clerics to speak to flocks of the faithful. Sunni and Shiite religious leaders condemned the week's attacks but found different causes for the escalation of violence that followed a relatively calm period after national elections on Dec. 15.

"These are hands that are trying to settle old historical scores by undermining security," Ahmad Khider Abbas, a Sunni cleric, said in his sermon at the Um al-Qurra mosque in Baghdad.

In Najaf, Shiite cleric Sadr Aldin Qubbanchi said the United States "gave the green light for the terrorists" when it "released terrorists from the prisons under the call for human rights."

Sunni and Shiite politicians joined the fray, hurling provocative charges at one another.

Sunni political groups have challenged the results of the parliamentary elections, which delivered a victory to the Shiite religious parties that lead Iraq's outgoing government. Shiites have responded by accusing some Sunni politicians of being in league with the insurgent movement.

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