Bin Laden Issues Warning on Iraq

Al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden warned Muslims against supporting Iraq's US-backed government and promised the "liberation of Palestine," in a new online message issued Saturday.   

AFP/INTELCENTER Photo: This handout image provided by IntelCenter 29 December 2007, shows a video still grab from...

In the 56-minute tape, the hunted militant accused the United States of seeking to control the region through the Iraqi government, according to SITE, a US-based institute that monitors extremist web forums.

He singled out Iraqis fighting against Al-Qaeda in Anbar province, and the Islamic Party of Iraq, a political group allied with the government, saying that Muslims supporting it are traitors to Islam, the monitor said in a report.

"The group is assisting the Americans in Iraq" and "fighting against the mujahideen" Islamist warriors, Bin Laden said, according to an excerpt translated from the Arabic by SITE.

The message came in the form of a video displaying a still image of him along with an audio commentary.

Bin Laden labeled any Muslims cooperating with the US-led Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki as apostates, and accused the United States of seeking to set up a separate Iraqi government through which to access oil.

He also said that with Islamist mujahedin fighters currently engaged in Iraq, the "liberation of Palestine" will follow, adding the mujahedin would never recognize Israel nor any Palestinian government that accepts a Jewish government, including one led by the Hamas Islamist movement.

The White House responded that the message showed the situation in Iraq was improving with Iraqis turning against Al-Qaeda, and the importance of the US-led military mission there.

"This is a reminder that the aim of Al-Qaeda in Iraq is to block democracy and freedom for all Iraqis. It also reminds us that the mission to defeat Al-Qaeda in Iraq is critically important and must succeed," said White House spokesman Tony Fratto.

"The Iraqi people -- every day, and in increasing numbers -- are choosing freedom and standing against the murderous, hateful ideology of Al-Qaeda in Iraq -- and we stand with them."

Bin Laden also apologized for the death of Muslims during attacks and asked the Islamist fighters to carry out their attacks away from Muslim places, SITE said in its report.

The tape was apparently made after the Mideast peace conference in the US city of Annapolis in late November, which bin Laden refers to. He made no mention of the assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto on Thursday, which Pakistan's government has blamed on Al-Qaeda.

The extremist network is linked to deadly attacks in Iraq, where an insurgency erupted after the US-led invasion of 2003.

Bin Laden has claimed responsibility for the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, which killed nearly 3,000 people and prompted the US-led invasion of Afghanistan.

Despite a massive manhunt and a 25-million-dollar bounty on his head, he has evaded capture and has regularly taunted the United States and its allies through warnings issued on video and audio cassettes.

The Iraqi interior ministry earlier Saturday trumpeted its achievements over the past year, saying most of Al-Qaeda's networks in the country had been destroyed.

"We have destroyed 75 percent of Al-Qaeda hide-outs, and we broke up major criminal networks that supported Al-Qaeda in Baghdad," said ministry spokesman Abdul Karim Khalaf.

Source: AFP

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