So, who bombed Assyrian and Armenian churches in Baghdad?

7/12/2005 8:27:57 PM

Zarqawi vows to target Shiites

Al-Qaeda leader in Iraq hits back at his ex-mentor’s criticism of killing Iraqi civilians, Christians.

DUBAI - Al-Qaeda's frontman in Iraq, Sunni Muslim Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, on Tuesday hit back at criticism from his former mentor as he vowed to pursue attacks on Shiite foes, in an Internet letter attributed to him.

In the letter, Zarqawi told the Islamist ideologue Sheikh Abu Mohammed al-Maqdessi, who is currently in detention in Jordan, that "we have repeatedly said that we were not the ones to start the killings."

Before being re-arrested by the Jordanian authorities last week, Maqdessi had given several interviews in which he bitterly criticised Zarqawi for targeting Iraqi civilians and well as international forces.

The letter, posted on an Islamic website, said Iraq's majority Shiites were "the ones who started liquidating Sunni cadres, forcing them to flee, and violating their mosques and homes."

"They are disguising themselves under the uniforms of the police and infidel (national) guards, and they are loyal to the Crusaders," Zarqawi said in reference to US-led forces in Iraq.

"After all this, we cannot refrain from killing them," he said.

Iraq's most wanted fugitive, who has never made secret his hatred for the majority Shiites, said in a voice message attributed to him last week that he was creating the "Omar Brigade" to eliminate the Badr Shiite members.

Zarqawi also denounced his former mentor for having accused him of attacking civilians and Christians.

"I don't know where the sheikh gets his news and information. We have already said that we did not target Christians or any other civilians," he said.

"All that we said is that there are various confessions in the land of the two rivers (Iraq), like the Yazidis, the Chaldeans, the Assyrians and we did not extend an arm to harm them... even though they are not linked to Islam."

"It has been proven to us that they have not participated with the Crusaders in the killings of the mujahedeens (Islamic fighters) and did not play the vile role played by the rejectionists (Shiites)," he said.

In an interview with Al-Jazeera, Maqdessi had criticised Zarqawi for the deadly suicide bombings that were killing civilians and other Muslims in Iraq.

Jordanian authorities arrested Maqdessi on July 6, a week after releasing him from jail, for making contact with "terrorist" groups.