US officials puzzle over al-Qaida letter

US intelligence officials who released a letter purporting to be from an al-Qaida leader to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi say they can not account for a passage that has raised doubts about the document's authenticity.

    A letter dated 9 July was said to be from Ayman al-Zawahiri

    The 9 July-dated letter, which US officials say was written by al-Qaida's second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, appears near its close to urge al-Zarqawi to send greetings to himself if visiting the Iraqi city of Falluja.

    "My greetings to all the loved ones and please give me news of Karem and the rest of the folks I know," says an unedited English translation posted at

    , the website of US intelligence chief John Negroponte.

    "And especially, by God, if by chance you're going to Falluja, send greetings to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi," it states.

    Al-Zarqawi is the Jordanian-born leader of al-Qaida in Iraq. His organisation has said the letter is a fabrication.

    A spokesman for Negroponte, who is the US director of national intelligence (DNI), acknowledged the greetings passage was confusing, but said the intelligence community was confident the letter was addressed to al-Zarqawi by al-Zawahiri.

    "We don't know what to make of it. It's unclear," the Negroponte spokesman said.

    "But we are absolutely confident that it was intended for Mr Zarqawi, based on a review by multiple agencies over a protracted period of time."

    US officials have refused to disclose details of where, when or how the authorities came by the letter, or what methods have been used to determine its authenticity.

    Credibility questioned

    Some experts contend the strange passage undermines the letter's credibility.

    "This would appear to be conclusive evidence that the DNI was mistaken and that the letter was written to someone other than Zarqawi," Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists said on Friday in his email intelligence newsletter, Secrecy News.

    Aftergood cited an article in the online Slate magazine that called attention to the passage as well as the fact the letter was signed with the name Abu Muhammad.

    SOURCE: Reuters


    How different voting systems work around the world

    How different voting systems work around the world

    Nearly two billion voters in 52 countries around the world will head to the polls this year to elect their leaders.

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

    Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn't killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

    The great plunder: Nepal's stolen treasures

    The great plunder: Nepal's stolen treasures

    How the art world's hunger for ancient artefacts is destroying a centuries-old culture. A journey across the Himalayas.