BAGHDAD, Iraq – Terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi revealed his face for the first time Tuesday in a dramatic video in which he dismissed Iraq’s new government as an American “stooge” and called it a “poisoned dagger” in the heart of the Muslim world.
The video, in which he also warned of more attacks to come, was posted on the Internet only days after a breakthrough in Iraq’s political process allowing its Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish leaders to start assembling a government.
It also followed a high-profile audiotape from Osama bin Laden and seemed a deliberate attempt by al-Zarqawi to reclaim the spotlight after months of taking a lower profile amid criticism of bombings against civilians. It was his first message since January.
A U.S. counterterrorism official, speaking on condition of anonymity in compliance with office policy, said analysts believe al-Zarqawi is showing his face to demonstrate that he is still engaged as a leader of jihad, or holy war.
Al-Zarqawi addressed Sunni Arabs in Iraq and across the Arab world, warning that their community was in danger of being caught between “the Crusaders and the evil Rejectionists,” the terms used by radical Sunnis for Americans and Shiites.
“God almighty has chosen you (Sunnis) to conduct holy war in your lands and has opened the doors of paradise to you … So mujahedeen, don’t dare close those doors,” he said. “They are slaughtering your children and shaming your women.”
Any new government – “whether made up of the hated Shiites or the secular Zionist Kurds or the collaborators imposed on the Sunnis – will be stooges of the Crusaders and will be a poisoned dagger in the heart of the Islamic nation,” he said.
He trumpeted the success of the insurgency, saying “when the enemy entered into Iraq, their aim was to control Iraq and the area. But here we have been fighting them for the last three years.”
He addressed President Bush, telling him, “By God, you will have no peace in the land of Islam.”
Al-Zarqawi has claimed responsibility for some of the bloodiest suicide bombings in Iraq since the 2003 fall of Saddam Hussein and for the beheadings and killings of at least 10 foreign hostages, including three Americans and a Briton. The U.S military has put a $25 million bounty on his head.