A Jordanian extremist suspected of bloody suicide attacks in Iraq was killed some time ago in U.S. bombing and a letter outlining plans for fomenting sectarian war is a forgery, a statement allegedly from an insurgent group west of the capital said.
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed in the Sulaimaniyah mountains of northern Iraq “during the American bombing there,” according to a statement circulated in Fallujah this week and signed by the “Leadership of the Allahu Akbar Mujahedeen.”
There was no way to verify the authenticity of the statement, one of many leaflets put out by a variety of groups taking part in the anti-U.S. resistance.
The statement did not say when al-Zarqawi was supposedly killed, but U.S. jets bombed strongholds of the extremist Ansar al-Islam in the north last April as Saddam Hussein’s regime was collapsing.
It said al-Zarqawi was unable to escape the bombing because of his artificial leg.
Before the Iraq conflict began last March, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said al-Zarqawi received hospital treatment in Baghdad after fleeing Afghanistan. U.S. intelligence sources said he apparently was fitted with an artificial leg.
The statement said the “fabricated al-Zarqawi memo” has been used by the U.S.-run coalition “to back up their theory of a civil war” in Iraq.
In February, the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq made public an intercepted letter it said was written by al-Zarqawi to al-Qaida leaders, detailing a strategy of spectacular attacks to derail the planned June 30 handover of power to the Iraqis. U.S. officials say al-Zarqawi may have been involved in some of the series of suicide bombings this year in Iraq.
“The truth is, al-Qaida is not present in Iraq,” the Mujahedeen statement said. Though many Arabs entered the country to fight U.S. troops, only a small number remain, the group said.
A little over a year ago, Jordanian authorities named al-Zarqawi as the mastermind behind the October 2002 murder of Laurence Foley, a 60-year-old administrator of U.S. aid programs in Jordan.
In a German court last year, Shadi Abdellah, a Palestinian on trial for allegedly plotting to attack Berlin’s Jewish Museum and a Jewish-owned disco, testified he was working for al-Zarqawi. He said they met in Afghanistan.
German authorities have reportedly said they believe al-Zarqawi was appointed by al-Qaida’s leadership to arrange attacks in Europe.
Moroccan government sources said a group blamed for bombings last May that killed 45 people in Casablanca got its orders from al-Zarqawi. In Turkey, officials said he was believed to have played a role in bombings that killed 63 at two synagogues, the British consulate and a British bank in Istanbul in November.