New York Times
January 21, 2005
BAGHDAD, Iraq, Jan. 20 - The most wanted insurgent in Iraq acknowledged in an Internet audio message on Thursday that a top guerrilla leader had died in fighting in Falluja, but he vowed to continue waging holy war against the Americans.
In the 75-minute message, the militant, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, insisted that the holy war "could last months and years."
"In the fight against the arrogant American tyrant who carries the flag of the cross, we find that despite its military might, it is being crushed emotionally and morally," he said, according to a translation from Reuters. "Our battle with the enemy is a battle of streets and towns and has many tactical, defensive and offensive methods. Fierce wars are not decided in days or weeks."
The audio message, posted on a guerrilla Web site, could not be immediately authenticated.
In the message, Mr. Zarqawi said Omar Hadid, a leader of the Falluja resistance and one of the most wanted guerrillas in Iraq, had died in Falluja after helping to kill American troops. A prominent tribal leader from Anbar Province, which includes Falluja, said last week that he had heard that Mr. Hadid had been killed.
The Americans are offering a $25 million reward for the capture or killing of Mr. Zarqawi, a Jordanian who has pledged his loyalty to Osama bin Laden. Mr. Zarqawi's group, Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, formerly known as One God and Jihad, is believed to be responsible for the deaths of hundreds here in ambushes, bombings and beheadings. An American military spokeswoman and a British security company said Thursday that a Briton and an Iraqi security guard were killed Wednesday in a roadside ambush north of Baghdad and that a Brazilian man working for one of South America's largest construction companies was kidnapped.
In Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province, insurgents fired six mortar or rocket rounds that landed near homes, the Marines said. It was unclear whether civilians had been wounded. Ramadi has been the scene of some of the toughest urban combat of the war, with insurgents attacking American bases in the city and regularly firing at the government center along the main street.
Guerrillas in Mosul, the embattled northern city, tried to overrun Al Salam Hospital but were repelled by Iraqi security forces, the American military said. The attack forced hospital workers and patients to flee. Guerrillas also set off an explosion outside a British military base six miles southwest of Basra, wounding several Iraqi civilians and nine British soldiers, the British Defense Ministry said.
The roadside ambush north of Baghdad on Wednesday took place near Bayji, site of a major oil refinery. The area is rife with insurgents, and the oil and electricity installations there often come under assault.
The victims were attacked while riding in a convoy near a power station at which they worked, according to a statement from Janusian Security Risk Management Ltd., a subsidiary of the Risk Advisory Group Ltd. based in London that has operated in Iraq since April 2003. Janusian declined to release their names.
The kidnapped Brazilian man was working for Odebrecht S.A., a construction company based in São Paulo, Brazil. His captors have not made any public demands.
The Army of Ansar al-Sunna, one of the most militant groups in Iraq, posted an Internet message on Thursday saying it had kidnapped and killed a Briton and a Swede near Bayji, news agencies reported. It was unclear whether this was related to the ambush.
Attempts to kidnap foreigners have surged after a drop in November. The abductions are often organized by criminal gangs that try to get payments for the victims from their home countries or employers, or from politically motivated rebel groups. A French journalist kidnapped in Baghdad in early January is still missing, while an archbishop taken earlier this week in Mosul was released within a day.
The Chinese government said it was negotiating to free eight Chinese workers who were abducted recently and turned up Tuesday in a videotape released by insurgents. Their captors are demanding that the Chinese government clarify its position on the war.
The assault near Bayji on Wednesday took place on the same day that insurgents sowed fear across the capital, setting off at least five car and truck bombs that killed at least 26 people, according to military estimates.
A security company operating in Iraq put out a report on Wednesday warning that insurgents were likely to try to take hostages in order to seize the spotlight during the election process. The balloting is planned for Jan. 30.
The report said insurgents would consider a prominent kidnapping to be "'the perfect backdrop" to the elections. It warned that British citizens in particular should be cautious, and referred to the beheading of Kenneth Bigley, a British engineer, in October, a kidnapping that stirred a political furor in Britain, where public opposition to the war runs high.
The report also said the attack near Bayji was a "sophisticated ambush" by a "high number of insurgents."
David Claridge, the managing director of Janusian, said in a statement, "We are investigating the matter and are working with the local authorities in their efforts to locate the missing civilian." The investigation is being led by the Iraqi police, said Master Sgt. Cynthia Weasner, a spokeswoman for the First Infantry Division.
Sal Remtulla, a spokeswoman for Janusian, said her company was a "service provider" for Odebrecht, meaning that it had a contract to protect Odebrecht's employees and buildings in Iraq.