Letter Shows Terrorists' 'Desperation' In Iraq, General Says
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 9, 2004 A suspected al Qaeda operative's urging of starting a religious civil war in Iraq indicates that terrorists are increasingly uneasy over pro-coalition developments in that country, senior U.S. officials said in Baghdad today.
Commenting on an article that appeared in today's New York Times, Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy operations director for Combined Joint Task Force 7, acknowledged to reporters that coalition forces had intercepted a courier and confiscated a letter written by Abu Musab al Zarquwi, a known terrorist with suspected links to al Qaeda.
The author of the 17-page letter writes about conducting 25 anti-coalition operations since being in Iraq, Kimmitt said, but the tone of the letter indicates that the terrorist "is disappointed in his lack of success." The letter urges terrorists to attack Shiite Muslims in Iraq, in an apparent attempt to precipitate religious civil war, said Dan Senor, senior spokesman of the Coalition Provisional Authority, who accompanied Kimmitt at the press briefing.
Shiite Muslims make up about 60 percent of Iraq's population, and were persecuted by deposed dictator Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Muslim. Under Saddam, the Sunnis -- about a third of Iraq's people -- held key government positions. Sunnis have often decried their loss of political power since the fall of Saddam's government.
Terrorists realize "that failure to defeat us in Iraq will be a major setback for their overall terror war," Senor pointed out, noting, "The buildup of Iraqi security forces is putting increasing pressure on the terrorists."
Senor said the terrorists are nervous about the upcoming June 30 handover of sovereignty from the CPA to the Iraq people.
The terrorists, he explained, "recognize that as we politically empower the Iraqi people it will be harder and harder for them to operate."
To derail Iraq's path to democracy, Senor said the terrorists want to create "sectarian warfare in an effort to provoke bloodshed" and sow chaos across the country.
Kimmitt said U.S., coalition and Iraqi security forces take the threat outlined in the letter seriously and "have substantial capability to use this intelligence and any other follow-up intelligence to kill or capture" those who would attempt to create political or social chaos in Iraq.
The general said the letter-writer's recommendation of instigating sectarian violence in Iraq "is almost a sign of desperation." Most of Iraq's people, he pointed out, reject terrorism and are looking forward to achieving governmental sovereignty on June 30.
Meanwhile, U.S., coalition, and Iraqi forces are keeping the pressure on insurgents in Iraq, Kimmitt reported, noting that 1,520 patrols, 16 offensive operations and 18 raids have been conducted in the past 24 hours. Seventy-eight anti-coalition suspects, he added, were detained during that time frame.
Kimmitt also reported two U.S. soldiers were killed and six others were wounded Feb. 9 during an explosive ordnance disposal mission. The U.S. casualties, the general noted, "Were not the result of a hostile attack."