Iraqi authorities release new tape of terrorist leader, say they are closing in on him

Sunday, October 1st 2006, 11:42 am
By: News On 6

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ Security forces are closing in on the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, a senior Iraqi official said Sunday, showing a captured video of the terror chief teaching followers how to build a car bomb.

The video, displayed to journalists, showed Abu Ayyub al-Masri _ his face exposed _ going through what appeared to be a storage bunker, pointing out different elements of a car bomb in what National Security Adviser Mouwafak al-Rubaie called an instructional CD.

``My message to Iraqis in Ramadan, God willing, is that in a very short time, we will bring you the good news of Abu Ayyub al-Masri either killed or handcuffed to be brought before the Iraqi justice system,'' al-Rubaie said.

The U.S. military said Sunday that more than 20 terror suspects believed linked to al-Qaida in Iraq had been killed or captured in raids in the past week in Baghdad and the nearby cities of Baqouba, Ramadi and Samarra.

A woman and a girl died in a crossfire during a joint U.S.-Iraqi raid early Sunday on a suspected militia member's home, Iraqi security officials said.

Angry men at the scene held up a color image of a smiling, winking Jesus giving a ``thumbs up'' sign that they said was left by troops at the raided house. The image, known as the ``Buddy Christ,'' is from the movie Dogma, a 1999 religious satire.

Neither the U.S. military nor the Iraqi army commented on the allegations surrounding the raid.

``We are poor people sitting in our house,'' a woman dressed in black told Associated Press Television News in the aftermath of the raid. ``We don't harbor rancor against others.''

The raid came a day after an unprecedented curfew in the Iraqi capital prompted by the arrest of an al-Qaida suspect who the U.S. military said was ``in the final stages'' of carrying out a string of bombings in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone, the center of government.

The suspect, seized Friday night, was the bodyguard of a top Sunni Arab politician, Adnan Al-Dulaimi, a member of the Iraqi Accordance Front _ the largest Sunni coalition in the 275-member parliament.

Baha el-Deen al-Araji, a Shiite lawmaker, accused Sunni politicians of having ``direct and indirect links to Saddamists, Takfiris (Sunni radicals) and terrorists.'' The U.S. military said al-Dulaimi was not a target of the raid that captured his bodyguard.

Al-Rubaie sought to calm any Sunni-Shiite tensions after the arrest, asking politicians ``not to take advantage of security operations to settle old political scores.''

With the end of the curfew Sunday morning, new violence killed at least 17 people in Baghdad and elsewhere _ including the two who died in Sunday's raid _ and eight bodies were found, apparently the latest victims of sectarian violence between Sunni and Shiite death squads.

Among the dead were three Iraqi civilians killed by a car bomb targeting a U.S. military patrol in Baghdad.

Al-Rubaie did not say why he believed security forces were close to catching al-Masri, who was named as leader of Iraq's most feared terror group after the death of his predecessor, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, in a June airstrike by U.S. forces. The U.S. military did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

``My message to Abu Ayyub al-Masri is that we are closer to you than you can imagine _ your days are numbered and you will face your fate very soon,'' al-Rubaie said.

The al-Masri video was found in a raid a few days ago in Youssifiyah, 12 miles south of Baghdad and copies of it have been distributed to al-Qaida followers, al-Rubaie said.

``He is copying this video for distribution to the killers and criminals to spread murder and sabotage among Iraqis,'' al-Rubaie said.

It was the first time al-Masri _ also known by the pseudonym Abu Hamza al-Muhajer _ has appeared showing his face in a video, though U.S. and Iraqi military officials have shown photos of him.

In the video, al-Masri, wearing a white T-shirt, is seen talking to the camera as he points out tin boxes and coils of wire and describes how to put together a vehicle bomb. At one point, a tanker truck is visible, and the feet of several other people are seen. About two minutes of the video was shown on Sunday, and al-Rubaie did not say how long the entire CD was.

``We prepare this vehicle as we did with other vehicles in the past,'' al-Masri says at one point. The militant, believed to be Egyptian-born, had short hair, wore glasses and had a mustache but no beard.

Al-Rubaie said the government was releasing the footage to ``let Iraqis know who is their No. 1 enemy ...recognize him easily and make it hard for him to hide.''