Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Terrorists proclaim alliance


Terrorists proclaim alliance
Group behind Iraq killings pledges loyalty to al-Qaida

Associated Press
Published on: 10/17/04

BAGHDAD, Iraq — The most feared militant group in Iraq, the movement of terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, declared its allegiance to Osama bin Laden on Sunday, saying it had agreed with al-Qaida over strategy and the need for unity against "the enemies of Islam."

The declaration, which appeared on a Web site often used as a clearinghouse for statements by militant groups, began with a Koranic verse encouraging Muslim unity and said al-Zarqawi considered bin Laden "the best leader for Islam's armies against all infidels and apostates."

Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his group say they stand with al-Qaida, according to a statement on an extremist Web site.

The statement, whose authenticity could not be independently confirmed, said the two had been in communication eight months ago and "viewpoints were exchanged" before the dialogue was interrupted.

"God soon blessed us with a resumption in communication, and the dignified brothers in al-Qaida understood the strategy of Tawhid and Jihad," the statement said.

The Jordanian-born al-Zarqawi is suspected of about a dozen high-profile attacks in Iraq, including last year's bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad and the beheading of numerous foreign hostages.

His relationship to bin Laden and the al-Qaida leadership has been the subject of speculation. Although many experts believe al-Zarqawi had longtime ties to al-Qaida, others suspected that al-Zarqawi considered himself a rival to bin Laden for the mantle of chief defender of the Muslim faith.

Al-Zarqawi's declaration came on the same day that U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said in a British TV interview that the U.S.-led war in Iraq hasn't made the world any safer.

"I cannot say the world is safer when you consider the violence around us, when you look around you and see the terrorist attacks around the world and you see what is going on in Iraq," Annan told ITV network.

Al-Zarqawi's statement appeared two days after the U.S. government declared Tawhid and Jihad a terrorist organization. The listing imposes restrictions on the group, including a ban on travel to the United States and a freeze on the group's assets in U.S. banks.

The United States, Britain and Iraq are asking the U.N. Sanctions Committee to list the al-Zarqawi group as well, which would impose identical sanctions worldwide.

Al-Zarqawi also was indicted Sunday in his native Jordan along with 12 other Muslim militant suspects on charges of plotting a chemical attack that could have killed thousands of people.

Al-Zarqawi and three of the others will be tried in absentia on charges including conspiring to commit terrorism, possessing and manufacturing explosives and affiliation with a banned group, according to the 24-page indictment made available Sunday to The Associated Press.

The indictment alleges that al-Zarqawi sent more than $118,000 to buy two vehicles that would be driven into Jordan's General Intelligence Department by suicide bombers armed with explosives and chemicals.

The indictment said the defendants had collected geographical data indicating thousands of people would be killed in the chemical blast.

Nine other men who are in custody in Jordan face the same charges, while a 13th suspect faces lesser charges of helping two of the fugitives. If convicted in the military court, 12 of the men face the death penalty.