Zarqawi Taunts U.S. in Video
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, showed his face in a video for the first time yesterday, accusing President Bush of lying to Americans about U.S. military victories in Iraq and vowing to destroy efforts to form a new government there.
Zarqawi predicted that "America will go out of Iraq, humiliated, defeated," in the 34-minute video, which showed him posing in the desert, firing an automatic rifle and consulting with other men whose faces were hidden.
In the three years since the beginning of the Iraq war, Zarqawi has issued numerous audiotapes, and occasional videos with his face concealed -- including during his beheading of U.S. contractor Nicholas Berg in May 2004 -- in which intelligence officials confirmed his identity through voice analysis. In the video posted yesterday on a radical Islamic Web site and dated April 21, only Zarqawi, bearded and wearing a black sweater and skullcap, was identifiable.
U.S. intelligence officials who evaluated the video, the bulk of which was devoted to his delivery of a lengthy speech in which he claimed that mujaheddin forces now had "the upper hand on the battlefield," said it was genuine.
Two days ago, al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden released an audiotape urging followers to prepare for a drawn-out conflict with the West. Bin Laden appeared briefly as a static image in the Zarqawi videotape with a voice-over calling on Islamic youth to fight "crusaders and Jews" wherever they are, especially in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, according to a translation provided by the Washington-based SITE Institute, which monitors terrorist Internet sites.
"All the good results are coming toward us, so my nation, do not give up. Don't be lazy," Zarqawi said in the video, titled "A Message to the People." During a discourse lasting approximately 20 minutes and simultaneously filmed by two cameras -- one placed in front of him and one slightly to the side, he was seated before a blank wall with a rifle beside him. Wearing an ammunition vest, he rarely looked directly into the camera and his downcast eyes seemed to be reading from a text held in front of him.
Zarqawi's face remained expressionless, but his voice was strong and he repeatedly raised his hand for emphasis. There was no indication where the tape was made, although he said that he was "not far away" from the Abu Ghraib prison, on the western edge of Baghdad.
Accusing Bush of "arrogance" in refusing to respond to bin Laden's recent offer of "a long-term truce," Zarqawi said the president had "become a liar to your own people . . . you claim that everything is under control . . . and it appears afterward that you are lying."
Bush, he said, was concealing from Americans that U.S. troops had "failed to fight," had committed suicide and took drugs that "make them like animals."
The United States had brought "rotten democracy" to Iraq and thought that a multiparty government would "get you out of the ditch you are in." As far as the mujaheddin were concerned, Zarqawi said, "any government in Iraq, whatever it is, will be like a dagger in the heart of the Muslim nation." Referring to Sunni political parties that last weekend agreed to participate in a Shiite-majority government, he said they had "put a rope around the necks of the Sunnis" and warned that the insurgents would target any who participated in the Iraqi military and police.
In Iraq, an aide to transitional Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari attributed Zarqawi's unprecedented appearance to unease over the long-delayed agreement reached last weekend to form a multi-party government. "Now they have seen that the government has broken the deadlock," Adnan Ali al-Kadhimi said in a telephone interview in Baghdad. "They are feeling this might be the last chance they have to survive. They [the insurgents] are fighting everyone in Iraq. Every Iraqi. I think that shows how weak they are."
But a U.S. counterterrorism official, who spoke on the condition that he not be identified, said it was equally likely that Zarqawi's message was designed to reassert his preeminence among Iraq's dozen or more recognized Sunni insurgent groups and "to give the impression of unity."