The leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq railed against Shi'ites in a four-hour-long audiotaped harangue posted on the Internet yesterday, saying militias are raping women and killing Sunnis and the community must fight back.
The tape by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi appeared aimed at sabotaging the Iraqi government's efforts to name a unity government, but was also intended to enflame rising Shi'ite-Sunni tensions across the Arab world.
"There's a civil war going on in Iraq, but it will not become truly fierce until it's exported outside Iraq. This tape is trying to do just that," said Dawood al-Shirian, a Saudi political commentator.
A written statement said the audiotape was made two months ago. Its authenticity could not be independently confirmed, but it was posted on a Web forum often used by Al Qaeda in Iraq for messages and the voice resembled Zarqawi's on other tapes.
Zarqawi's Sunni insurgent followers have carried out some of the deadliest suicide bombings in Iraq and have frequently targeted Shi'ite civilians and mosques in an attempt to spark civil war. In his statements, the Jordanian-born militant often vilifies Shi'ites as infidels.
But the tape posted yesterday was an unprecedented screed that chronicled what Zarqawi said was a Shi'ite campaign throughout history to destroy Islam and help foreign invaders of Muslim lands.
"Sunnis, wake up, pay attention, and prepare to confront the poisons of the Shi'ite snakes," Zarqawi said. "Forget about those advocating the end of sectarianism and calling for national unity."
He pointed to two Shi'ite militias with links to parties in the Shi'ite-dominated Iraqi government, accused by Sunnis in Iraq of running death squads in a recent wave of sectarian violence.
"They kill men and arrest women, put them in prison and rape them and steal everything from the houses of the Sunnis," he said.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Zarqawi expressed ``a futile brutality, depraved mentally and morally."
"I believe the Iraqi people won't listen to such miserable words," he said during a news conference in Baghdad. ``Reconciliation is the hope for all Iraqis, and all Iraqis welcome it."
Maliki has put together a government of Shi'ites, Sunnis, and Kurds that US and Iraqi officials hope will ease spiraling sectarian violence in the country. But Maliki has struggled to get the parties to agree on key security posts that would lead any effort to bring stability -- the interior and defense ministries.
Zarqawi appeared to be seeking to rally Sunni radicals by tapping into the mistrust of Shi'ites.
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