msnbc.com news services
updated 6/24/2004 7:36:52 PM ET 2004-06-24T23:36:52

The CIA said Thursday that the voice on a recording purportedly made by the mastermind of bombings and beheadings in Iraq threatening to assassinate Iraq’s interim prime minister and fight the Americans “until Islamic rule is back on Earth” is “likely” that of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

"As for you (Iyad) Allawi ... you don't know that you have already survived traps we made for you," said the tape purportedly made by the al-Qaida-linked militant and published online Wednesday. "We promise you that we will continue the game with you until the end," the online recording said. "We will not get bored until we make you drink from the same glass that Izzadine Saleem tasted."

Saleem, a former Governing Council president also known as Abdel-Zahraa Othman, was killed May 18 in a car bombing in Baghdad.

‘The symbol of evil’
"You (Allawi) are the symbol of evil and the infidel nation; you are the source of all traitors," the recording said. "We will carry on our jihad against the Western infidel and the Arab apostate until Islamic rule is back on Earth."

“After conducting a technical analysis of the audio recording posted on the Internet on June 23rd, CIA’s assessment is that it is likely the voice of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi,” a CIA official said.

IMAGE: Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi
Pool via Getty Images file
Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.
A spokesman for Allawi, who heads an interim Iraqi government that is to take over at the end of June, dismissed the threat.

“We do not care about these threats, we will continue to rebuild Iraq and work for freedom, democracy, justice and peace. Iraqis have faced these threats before,” the spokesman, who was not identified, told Reuters.

In Washington, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said that President Bush called Allawi on Wednesday to “reiterate his commitment to the Iraqi people,” and that Allawi raised the topic of the assassination threat during the conversation.

McClellan did not provide Bush’s response but said Allawi “is determined to confront these terrorist threats.”

Al-Zarqawi's group blamed for beheadings
The Jordanian terror suspect is believed to have ties to al-Qaida, and his group claimed responsibility for the beheading of American hostage Nicholas Berg and Kim Sun-Il, a South Korean hostage whose decapitated body was found Tuesday between Baghdad and Fallujah.

After the slaying, U.S. forces launched an airstrike on what the Americans said was an al-Zarqawi hideout in Fallujah. On Wednesday, a senior coalition military official said 20 foreign fighters and terrorists were believed to have been killed in the Tuesday night strike. The official briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.

Dr. Loai Ali Zeidan at Fallujah Hospital put the death toll at three with nine wounded. It was the second U.S. airstrike on Fallujah since Saturday.

"In both cases, we believe we hit significant numbers of al-Zarqawi lieutenants and al-Zarqawi fighters," another official, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, said. The airstrikes also destroyed large ammunition stores, Kimmitt, coalition deputy operations chief, said Wednesday in an interview with Associated Press Television News.

On the recording, the speaker identified as al-Zarqawi said he was not in Fallujah.

‘I am like a tourist in Iraq’
"I am like a tourist in Iraq. I move along the country staying with my family and brothers," he said.

There was no date on the 16-minute recording, which surfaced on an Islamic Web site known as a clearinghouse for statements and videos from al-Qaida and other extremist groups.

Video: Rap recruiting video The speaker compared Allawi to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, whom he said was installed by the United States.

"The indirect occupation is the most effective weapon to be used against this nation. The infidel foreigner who aims at stealing the nation, looting its riches and enslaving it, is replaced ... with hypocrites who wear the same skin and have the same tongue of this nation," he said.

"The Arab countries around us are commanded by the White House through mediators who are very devoted to their (American) masters," the voice said.

Washington, which views the al-Zarqawi as an ally of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida network and a chief architect of violence in Iraq, has put a $10 million bounty on his head.

“The free world cannot be intimidated by the brutal action of these barbaric people,” U.S. President Bush said Tuesday after learning that Kim had been killed.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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