Al-Qaida in Iraq says it has 12,000 fighters who are winning war faster than expected

Friday, November 10th 2006, 8:28 pm
By: News On 6

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) The leader of al-Qaida in Iraq claimed in a new tape released Friday that his group had mobilized 12,000 fighters and was winning the war in Iraq faster than expected.

A man who identified himself as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir taunted President Bush in the audio tape, challenging him to keep American troops in the country because the fighters had not shed ``enough of your blood.''

The group also welcomed this week's election in which Bush's party lost control of Congress and the subsequent resignation of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. It vowed to continue its fight until the White House is blown up.

``The al-Qaida army has 12,000 fighters in Iraq, and they have vowed to die for God's sake,'' al-Muhajir said in a tape released Friday. He also claimed to have another 10,000 unequipped fighters ready to go into battle.

The authenticity of the 22-minute tape and al-Muhajir's identity could not be verified, but it appeared on a Web site commonly used by Islamic militants. The CIA said it was analyzing the tape but declined to comment further.

Al-Muhajir, also known as Abu Ayyub al-Masri, took over as leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, one of the country's deadliest terror groups, after his predecessor Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in a U.S. airstrike in June.

Al-Muhajir called Bush ``the most stupid president'' in U.S. history and declared that was allowing al-Qaida to win the war more quickly than expected.

But he challenged Bush not to leave Iraq, saying: ``We haven't had enough of your blood yet.''

``We call on the lame duck (Bush) not to hurry his escape the way the defense secretary did,'' al-Muhajir said.

``Remain steadfast on the battlefield you coward,'' al-Muhajir said to Bush.

Al-Muhajir praised the results of Tuesday's elections in which Democrats swept to power in the House and the Senate due partly to voter dissatisfaction over the handling of the war in Iraq.

``The American people have put their feet on the right path by ... realizing their president's betrayal in supporting Israel,'' the terror leader said. ``So they voted for something reasonable in the last elections.''

The al-Qaida commander also promised that his militants would never not give up their fight until they had blown up the White House.

``We will not rest from our Jihad (holy war) until ... we have blown up the filthiest house, which is called the White House,'' al-Muhajir said.

Ben Venzke, head of the Virginia-based IntelCenter which monitors terrorism communications, said the message ``shows a remarkable degree of speed in being responsive'' to the events in the United States.

In the tape, al-Muhajir also called on Sunni Muslims to pledge their allegiance to a new state that militants have said they created in Iraq, stating its ruler was a man named Abu Omar al-Baghdadi.

``I vow allegiance to you,'' he said, addressing al-Baghdadi as the ``ruler of believers'' and placing al-Qaida in Iraq fighters under his command.

In October, an Iraqi militant umbrella group that includes al-Qaida in Iraq announced that it had established an Iraqi Islamic State under al-Baghdadi, consisting of several Sunni-dominated provinces including Baghdad.

Iraqi authorities have dismissed their claim.

Venzke said al-Muhajir's claim of allegiance to al-Baghdadi shows that there is increased backing among Sunni insurgents for the creation of an Islamic state in Iraq.

``It shows a growing sort of support and organizational presence around this idea,'' he said.

Iraqi security officials said last month they were close to capturing or killing al-Muhajir and released a captured video showing the terror chief teaching followers how to build a car bomb. The video was the first to show the militant leader's face, though U.S. and Iraqi military officials have shown photos of him.

Al-Qaida in Iraq last released an audio tape purportedly from al-Muhajir in late September, where he called for nuclear scientists to join his group's holy war and urged insurgents to kidnap Westerners.