BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) The most feared militant group in Iraq, the movement of terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, declared its allegiance to Osama bin Laden on Sunday, saying it had resolved a dispute with al-Qaida over strategy and vowing unity against ”the enemies of Islam.”
The question of al-Zarqawi’s relationship to bin Laden and the al-Qaida leadership has been the subject of considerable speculation. Some experts believed al-Zarqawi who has claimed to be leading a bloody campaign of bombings against U.S. and Iraqi forces and beheadings of American hostages considered himself a rival to bin Laden.
The authenticity of the statement, found Sunday on an Islamic Web site, could not be independently confirmed.
The statement, which began with a Quranic verse encouraging Muslim unity, said the Jordanian al-Zarqawi, leader of the Tawhid and Jihad group, had been in contact with bin Laden eight months ago and ”viewpoints were exchanged” before the dialogue was interrupted.
”God has soon blessed us with a resumption in communication, and the dignified brothers in al-Qaida understood the strategy of Tawhid and Jihad,” the statement said.
It announced the ”allegiance of Tawhid and Jihad’s leadership and soldiers to the chief of all fighters, Osama bin Laden,” declaring that it would follow his orders without question.
”You are the best leader for Islam’s armies against all infidels and apostates,” said the statement by the group, whose name means ”Monotheism and Holy War” in Arabic.
The statement said the announcement was being made at the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan, ”at a time where Muslims need more than ever to stick together in the face of the religion’s enemies.”
”It’s good tidings for our nation … to tease the infidels and scare the enemies of Islam.”