3 Iraqi Shiites beheaded on video

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Insurgents signaled the fight is still on after Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s death, posting an Internet video Saturday showing the beheading of three alleged Shiite death squad members in revenge for killing Sunnis.

The video, as grisly as any the al-Qaida in Iraq leader issued, was clearly designed to quash hopes that the Sunni-dominated insurgency might change tactics by ending attacks on Shiite civilians and institutions, especially the police.

Fellow Sunni insurgent groups sent condolences for al-Zarqawi in Internet messages Saturday and warned Sunnis not to cooperate with the Iraqi government, an apparent call for unity three days after U.S. forces killed the terror leader in a targeted airstrike.

The condolence statements came from the al-Qaida-linked Ansar al-Sunnah – the group that posted the beheading video on a militant Web site – and the head of the Mujahedeen Shura Council, an umbrella organization of five insurgent groups, including al-Qaida in Iraq, that al-Zarqawi helped found last year.

“Iraq is the front defense line for Islam and Muslims, so don’t fail to follow the path of the mujahedeen (holy warriors), the caravan of martyrs and the faithful,” said Abdullah bin Rashid al-Baghdadi, the Shura Council’s head.

He vowed: “As for you the slaves of the cross (coalition forces), the grandsons of Ibn al-Alqami (Shiites), and every infidel of the Sunnis, we can’t wait to sever your necks with our swords.”

Across Iraq, at least 24 people were killed in violence Saturday – including a number of sectarian attacks.

Gunmen stopped a minivan carrying Sunnis on a highway near Baghdad, ordered the passengers off and opened fire, killing four and wounding one. In Baghdad, gunmen in two cars shot dead a Shiite metal worker and wounded two others. Also in the capital, a roadside bomb exploded in the mainly Shiite Karadah area, targeting a police patrol; five people were killed and 14 wounded, including three officers.

In the northern city of Mosul, gunmen killed three Shiite butchers.

The Jordanian-born al-Zarqawi was the defining face of Iraq’s insurgency. His tirades against the nation’s majority Shiites and calls on the once-dominant minority Sunni Arabs to rise up and kill them were matched by the killing of thousands of Shiites in attacks.

In contrast, Ansar al-Sunnah has largely refrained from killing civilians. Made up mostly of homegrown Iraqi guerrillas, the group instead has mostly gone after American and Iraqi forces as well as Iraqis and foreigners employed by the U.S. military.

It was the first known footage of beheadings to be posted by any insurgent group in months, and possibly timed to make clear to the U.S. and Iraqi governments that there will be no change in tactics even though al-Zarqawi is gone.

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