BAGHDAD, Sept. 5 — Abu Musab Zarqawi’s foreign-led Al Qaeda in Iraq took open control of a key western town at the Syrian border, deploying its guerrilla fighters in the streets and flying Zarqawi’s black banner from rooftops, tribal leaders and other residents in the city and surrounding villages said.
A sign newly posted at the entrance of Qaim declared, “Welcome to the Islamic Kingdom of Qaim.” A statement posted in mosques described Qaim as an “Islamic kingdom liberated from the occupation.”
Zarqawi’s fighters were killing officials and civilians seen as government-allied or anti-Islamic, witnesses, residents and others said. On Sunday, the bullet-riddled body of a woman lay in a street of Qaim. A sign left on her corpse declared, “A prostitute who was punished.”
Zarqawi’s fighters had shot to death nine men in public executions in the city center since the weekend, accusing the men of being spies and collaborators for U.S. forces, said Sheikh Nawaf Mahallawi, a leader of a Sunni Arab tribe, the Albu Mahal, that had battled the foreign fighters.