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Ally's Tactics Give Al Qaeda Pause, U.S. Says

In a letter, Bin Laden's No. 2 tells Iraq militant not to alienate Muslims, according to Pentagon.

October 07, 2005|From Reuters

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon said Thursday that the United States had obtained a letter written by Al Qaeda's second in command, Ayman Zawahiri, to the network's leader in Iraq saying tactics such as bombing mosques and killing hostages might alienate fellow Muslims.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the letter was addressed to Abu Musab Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born militant believed to head Al Qaeda's Iraq branch.

Whitman said the United States considered the letter authentic, but he refused to say how or when it was obtained.

CBS News, quoting an unidentified senior official, reported that the letter was written after the July transit bombings in London.

"Zawahiri does say that the insurgents in Iraq should avoid using tactics such as bombing of mosques and slaughtering of hostages in order not to alienate the masses. In this letter, he talks about believing that the eventual governance of Iraq must include the Muslim masses, and that they are at risk of alienating those," Whitman told reporters.

Whitman declined to release the letter, which was in Arabic, but said it included a plea to Zarqawi for financial support.

"Zawahiri says that they've lost many of their key leaders ... that their lines of communication and funding have been severely disrupted," Whitman said.

The letter, he said, emphasizes that Muslim extremists intend to create a broad Islamic state centered on Iraq and extending into neighboring Muslim countries, although he declined to reveal which nations were mentioned. CBS said the countries included Egypt, Lebanon and Syria.

Officials say Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri have set general parameters within which they expect Zarqawi to run his insurgent struggle against U.S.-led forces in Iraq. But they say the two sides have clashed over Zarqawi's attacks on Shiite Muslims.

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