Fallujans deny al-Zarqawi presence

Iraqi fighters in Falluja, their faces hidden behind chequered cloth, have denied in a taped message that al-Qaida-linked Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was holed up in their city.

    The US has offered $10 million for al-Zarqawi's capture

    "The American invader forces claim that al-Zarqawi, and with him a group of Arab fighters, are in our city," a masked man read from a piece of paper on Friday.

       

    "We know that this talk about al-Zarqawi and the fighters is a game the American invader forces are playing to strike Islam and Muslims in the city of mosques, steadfast Falluja."

       

    The United States believes al-Zarqawi, accused of leading a bloody campaign of bombings and of decapitating an American and a South Korean captive, has played a significant role in the violence gripping Iraq.

       

    On the tape, five men holding a rocket-propelled grenade launcher and machine gun said local fighters were defending their hometown - sometimes known as the "city of mosques".

     

    Bombing

       

    US occupation forces over the past week bombed houses they said were hideouts for al-Zarqawi's fighters.

       

    "We know that this talk about al-Zarqawi and the fighters is a game the American invader forces are playing to strike Islam and Muslims in the city of mosques, steadfast Falluja" 

    Masked man in video message

    A group led by al-Zarqawi, who Washington says has links to al-Qaida, claimed responsibility for a wave of attacks in Iraq on Thursday in which at least 100 people were killed and hundreds more wounded.

       

    In one of the attacks, scores of black-clad fighters, some wearing headbands with the name of al-Zarqawi's group, attacked a police station and other government buildings in Baquba, northwest of Baghdad.

       

    Iraq's interim national security minister said on Thursday that Iraqi officials had good intelligence on al-Zarqawi - who this week threatened to assassinate Iraq's prime minister - and plan to pursue him after the formal transfer of power next week.

       

    The US has offered a $10 million reward for his capture.

       

    In April, hundreds of Iraqis were killed in Falluja in fierce fighting between marines and fighters.

     

    A truce was agreed to under which marines withdrew from the city and an Iraqi force took over responsibility for security.

    SOURCE: Reuters


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