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Threats come as Sunnis attacked

Published May 6, 2007


BAGHDAD - Al-Qaida in Iraq branded the country's Sunni vice president a "criminal" for participating in the U.S.-backed government, and a suicide bomber Saturday struck army recruits west of Baghdad, killing at least 15 people in another warning to Sunnis not to cooperate with the Shiite leadership.

The suicide attack in the mostly Sunni town of Abu Ghraib was the deadliest in a series of attacks that left at least 74 people dead nationwide.

The verbal attack on Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi was purportedly delivered by al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, also known as Abu Ayyub al-Masri, in an audiotape posted on an extremist Web site only days after Iraqi authorities said Masri had been killed.

During the 21-minute speech, the al-Qaida leader criticized Hashemi as "this criminal" who "relentlessly calls" for U.S. troops to remain in Iraq. Hashemi has resisted calls by fellow Sunni leaders to quit the Shiite-dominated government.

The speaker also denied any clashes between al-Qaida and other "jihadist groups or our blessed tribes, " saying reports to the contrary by U.S. and Iraqi authorities were only "lies and a desperate attempt to drive a wedge within the ranks of the jihadists."

Iraqi officials announced this week that Masri had been killed in an internal fight among al-Qaida members; they could not produce a body and U.S. officials said they could not confirm the report.

The audiotape - the first word from Masri since his reported death - was posted on a militant Web site and appeared to be a clear warning to Sunnis against cooperating with the Shiite-dominated government.

Hours later, a video was released showing Osama bin Laden's deputy mocking the nearly 3-month-old Baghdad security plan, recounting the April 12 suicide bombing at the Iraqi Parliament cafeteria in the U.S.-controlled Green Zone, when a bomber slipped through security and blew himself up amid lunching lawmakers, killing one Sunni legislator.

The attack cast heavy doubt about progress in the latest U.S.-Iraqi bid to clamp off violence in the capital. Iraq's al-Qaida front group claimed responsibility for the bombing. "And lest (President) Bush worry, I congratulate him on the success of his security plan, and I invite him on the occasion for a glass of juice, but in the cafeteria of the Iraqi Parliament in the middle of the Green Zone, " Ayman al-Zawahri said, according to the Washington-based SITE Institute, which monitors militant statements.

Zawahri also addressed during the 67-minute video a war spending plan pushed by Democratic leaders, and vetoed by Bush, that would have required the first U.S. troops in Iraq to be withdrawn by Oct. 1 with a goal of a complete pullout six months later.

"This bill will deprive us of the opportunity to destroy the American forces which we have caught in a historic trap, " Zawahri said.

"We ask Allah that they (U.S. troops) only get out of it after losing 200, 000 to 300, 000 killed, in order that we give the spillers of blood in Washington and Europe an unforgettable lesson, " he said.

He made no mention of Bush vetoing the bill on Thursday - an indication the video may have been made beforehand.

In his weekly radio address, Bush urged Congress on Saturday to quickly craft a new war spending bill but offered no clues about whether he will compromise over linking U.S. support to stability in Iraq.

[Last modified May 6, 2007, 00:59:50]

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