updated 5/8/2006 7:10:13 PM ET 2006-05-08T23:10:13

Al-Qaida in Iraq is concerned about disorganization within its cells in the Baghdad area, with one extremist describing them as simply a “daily annoyance” to the Iraqi government, according to documents released Monday by the U.S. military.

The military said the documents were seized during April 16 raids in the Youssifiyah area, 12 miles south of the capital. The documents indicate the group is worried that its forces are unable to secure solid footholds within Baghdad, U.S. military officials said.

Notably absent from the documents were the usual derogatory references to Shiites as heretics, and the Americans as either “crusaders” or “occupation forces” — language common to most militant postings that appear on the Internet.

“This information confirms what the government of Iraq, coalition forces and ultimately the people of Iraq already know — that al-Qaida in Iraq’s role only attempts to impede Iraqis in following the road to prosperity, security and national unity,” U.S. military spokesman Brig. Gen. Rudy Wright said in a statement.

In one document as released by the U.S., an unidentified al-Qaida member writes that the influence and power of Iraq’s Shiite majority cannot be taken lightly, especially in Baghdad, “particularly when the power of the ministries of Interior and Defense is given to them, compared to the power of the mujahedeen” in the city.

The document says that the Baghdad cells are capable of only “hit and run” operations, leading the public to conclude that “the Shiites are stronger in Baghdad and nearer to controlling it, while the mujahedeen ... are not considered more than a daily annoyance to the Shiite government.”

Fumble-fingered terrorist
Release of the documents appears part of a U.S. campaign to deflate the image of al-Qaida in Iraq and its leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The documents were released four days after the U.S. military aired what it said were clips cut from a previously released al-Qaida in Iraq video which showed al-Zarqawi fumbling with an unfamiliar, American-made machine gun.

The version of the tape posted on the Web showed al-Zarqawi as a confident, skilled warrior.

The other document released Monday outlined the group’s strategy in Baghdad. It said al-Qaida should focus on the capital while reducing attacks on Sunni areas “in order to reduce pressure on the Sunnis ... while cleansing (Sunni areas) of spies and Shiites.”

U.S. military officials have said that militants are expected to mount more attacks in Baghdad as lawmakers struggle to form the country’s first democratically elected national unity government — a process that has been rife with sectarian and ethnic tension mirroring the violence around Iraq.

Focusing on Baghdad, as explained by the strategy document, would force the U.S. military to shift resources there and allow militants to regroup in their traditional bases, including Anbar province, which includes the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi. It also reiterates al-Zarqawi’s long-stated goal of targeting the country’s majority Shiites.

But the strategy document complains that “the strength of the brothers in Baghdad” is based mostly on car bombs and “groups of assassins lacking any organized military capabilities.”

Loss of control lamented
The writer complains that the Americans and the Iraqi government forces “were able to absorb our painful blows,” raise new recruits and “take control of Baghdad as well as other areas, one after the other.”

“This is why every year is worse than the previous year, as far as the mujahedeen’s control and influence over Baghdad,” the document said.

It also charged that the major Sunni groups — the Iraqi Islamic Party and the clerical Association of Muslim Scholars — have “anesthetized” the Sunni population. It warned that “we will have a problem” if the government succeeds in raising all-Sunni army units.

Insurgents have recently targeted recruits from the first all-Sunni unit, killing at least seven of them in two separate attacks last week.

“Either we let them go beyond the limits, or fight them and risk inciting the Sunnis against us through the channels of the party and the association,” the document says.

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