In a videotape sent to the al-Arabiya television station, members of a group calling itself the “Salvation Movement” questioned how al-Zarqawi could use Islam to justify the alleged killing of innocent civilians, the alleged targeting of government officials and the alleged kidnapping and beheading of foreigners.
They threatened to kill him if he did not leave Iraq immediately.
The five men, their faces covered with Arab headscarves, were flanked by rocket-propelled grenades, pistols, rifles and an Iraqi flag.
Speaking with a clear Iraqi accent, one of the men said, “He (al-Zarqawi) must leave Iraq immediately, and his followers and everyone who gives shelter to him and his criminal actions.”
The man continued, saying, “We swear to Allah that we have started preparing …to capture him and his allies or kill them and present them as a gift to our people….This is the last warning. If you don’t stop, we will do to you what the coalition forces have failed to do.”
Al-Zarqawi is alleged to be behind a series of coordinated attacks on police and security forces that killed 100 people only days before US forces handed over power to an Iraqi interim government.
The video marked the first time that an Iraqi group made a public threat against al-Zarqawi.
“We swear to Allah that we have started preparing …to capture him and his allies…”
The threats revealed the deep anger many Iraqis, including
insurgent groups, feel toward foreign fighters, whom many consider as illegitimate a presence in Iraq as the 160-thousand US and other coalition troops.
The threat came a day after US-led occupation forces, who have been targeting al-Zarqawi, launched an air strike in the city of Falluja on a suspected safe house allegedly used by his followers.
According to witnesses, 15 civilians, including women and children, were killed.