By Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, June 12, 2006
BAGHDAD, June 11 -- Al-Qaeda in Iraq reiterated its faith in Osama bin Laden on Sunday and vowed to carry out attacks that would "shake the earth underneath the enemy," according to a statement posted on the Internet four days after the death of the insurgent group's leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
The message said leaders of the group had agreed to continue "the march of jihad and not be affected by the martyrdom" of Zarqawi.
"For he who was practicing jihad for Abu Musab, Abu Musab died. And for he who practices jihad for God's sake, God is alive and immortal," the statement said, borrowing language used at the death of Islam's prophet Muhammad. The message was posted by the Mujaheddin Shura Council, an umbrella organization of insurgent groups.
U.S. military officials have said they believed the Sunni Arab network was disrupted by Zarqawi's death on Wednesday. Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top U.S. commander in Iraq, said on "Fox News Sunday" that al-Qaeda in Iraq had been "hurt badly" and that U.S. forces had conducted a "steady drumbeat" of operations against Zarqawi's network since his death.
Still, the violence continued Sunday. Four car bombs exploded in Baghdad over a four-hour period in a fiery reminder of the insurgents' capabilities. At least 20 people were killed, including 11 police officers, and 51 were wounded, according to Iraqi Interior Ministry officials.
The first two bombs exploded near a hospital and at a police checkpoint near the southern neighborhood of Karrada, said Brig. Sadoun Salman al-Shimery of the Interior Ministry. The next two targeted police patrols in the Ghazaliyah area, he said.
In the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, in northern Iraq, gunmen killed two Kurdish militia members who were working for a political party, and a teacher was killed by armed men as he returned to his home, Kirkuk police officials said.
In the Mosul area, also in northern Iraq, a bomb targeting an Iraqi army patrol killed one person and injured six others, said Nineveh police Lt. Omar Shareif. Gunmen also assassinated Obaid Ahmed Abdullah, a former Iraqi army brigadier, as well as Anwar Hussein Abdul Lattief, a former deputy governor, police officials said.
Some terrorism experts had predicted an upsurge in retaliatory killing by members of al-Qaeda in Iraq after Zarqawi's assassination.
"Of course the loss of their leader here in Iraq is going to disrupt them," said Maj. Tim Keefe, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad. "But you also have to understand that there are many more out there.
"While it's a serious blow to them, it hasn't been completely wiped out. We still have challenges ahead."
In the Sunni province of Anbar, in the west, residents have begun fleeing the Ramadi area, apparently fearing an imminent U.S. military operation. Bilal Khalid al-Ubaidi, 42, a medical assistant at Ramadi Hospital, said U.S. troops patrolling the city Sunday told residents to leave their homes or risk being killed.
A Sunni member of parliament, Abdul Nasser al-Janabi, said residents had asked him where they should go. "We did not know what to tell them," he said. "We, the peoples' representatives, are calling on the government and the American forces to break the blockade on Ramadi and withdraw."
Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, a military spokesman, said recently that U.S. forces had intensified missions involving specific targets in the area but that no full-scale operation was underway.
In southern Iraq, a predominantly Shiite Muslim region, rockets or mortar shells landed in a British military camp near the city of Amarah, 180 miles southeast of Baghdad, said a British military spokesman, Al Green. A convoy sent to investigate was quickly attacked with small-arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades and hand grenades. A subsequent gunfight continued for several hours and spread to other areas in the city, Green said. One British soldier was wounded, he said.
The Associated Press reported that five civilians were killed and more than a dozen injured in the shooting. An Iraqi police official told the AP that the fighting started after insurgents set a fire in a vegetable market to lure British soldiers.
Special correspondents Saad al-Izzi, Naseer Nouri, Bassam Sebti and Omar Fekeiki contributed to this report.