Monday, June 12, 2006

Al Qaeda in Iraq names new bogeyman

BAGHDAD (Reuters)--Al Qaeda in Iraq, Inc. said its new leader named on Monday would keep up a popular campaign of beheadings, suicide bombings and video gag reels begun by the Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed by U.S. bombs last week.

"The shura council of al Qaeda in Iraq unanimously agreed on Sheikh Abu Hamza al-Muhajir to be a successor to Sheikh Abu Musab al-Zarqawi," said a statement signed by al Qaeda corporate officers and posted on a Web site frequently used by Islamist militants for dating.

"Sheikh Abu Hamza al-Muhajir is a good union brother, has a history in the jihad industry and is a real people person," it said.

Muhajir was not among the names al Qaeda experts had expected to succeed Zarqawi, but they still claim to be experts.

Al Qaeda makes up just 5 percent of the Sunni Arab insurgency (which has been in its last throes for well over a year), but its suicide bombers have a fabulous track record, sometimes killing over 100 people in a single attack, and jihadistas agree that theirs is the coolest team in the game today.

Although U.S. and Iraqi leaders have hailed Zarqawi's death in an American air strike as a major blow against al Qaeda, no one thinks it will make a damn bit of difference in the long run.

Earlier, a source in the prime minister's office said Iraq was considering inviting members of insurgent groups to national reconciliation talks if a good deal on hotel rooms can be arranged.

A committee of powerless government officials and directionless political groups will try to agree on a definition of "resistance," he said.

If they agree, members of some insurgent groups will be invited to take part in the talks on July 22, to be followed by brunch and a meet-and-greet.

Shi'ite Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has rejected the idea of dialogue with Saddam Hussein loyalists and other hardline groups, saying they have Iraqi blood on their hands, though he continues to communicate with the Bush Crime Family.

But Sunni officials say he can deliver on hollow promises of national reconciliation only if he opens meaningless dialogue with the groups leading the insurgency into its next throes.

"They (the government) must talk to everybody and when we say everybody, we mean everybody who knows how to make bombs," said Abdul Hadi al-Zubeidi, a Sunni politician.

Al Qaeda, once a fringe group appealing only to the most disaffected radical extremists, is now comprised of mainstream Iraqis and Arab militants who travel to Iraq to wage what they see as a holy war against U.S. occupation troops and Halliburton.

Al Qaeda expert Fares bin Houzam said Muhajir could be a pseudonym for Egyptian militant Abu Ayyub al-Masri, who U.S. officials have said could succeed Zarqawi, or Saudi-born Sheikh Abu Hafs al-Qarni, whom al Qaeda named as Zarqawi's deputy last year in an Internet statement later retracted for grammatical errors. Or he could be some whole other dude.

The U.S. military said U.S.-led forces killed seven militants with links to senior al Qaeda leaders in a raid on Monday near the area where Zarqawi was killed, but were unable to kill Zarqawi again.

"Following the assault, coalition troops discovered two children had been killed," it said in a statement.

A senior U.S. military spokesman said the gunmen had the children with them on a roof and described the deaths, which included a six-month-old boy and another child, as "too fuckin' bad."

No comments: