AL-ZARQAWI RELEASES NEW AUDIOTAPE CRITICIZING SHIITES
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, released a new four-hour long audiotape on June 1, in which he launches an aggressive verbal attack against Shiites. Al-Zarqawi labels Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani as the “leader of infidelity and atheism,” and says that Shiite militias the “Badr Brigades and Mahdi Army are storming the houses of Sunnis under the pretext of searching for the mujahideen, and even if they did not find any, they kill men and arrest women, put them in prison and rape them and steal everything from the houses of the Sunnis” (AP, June 2). Al-Zarqawi did not reserve his criticism for Shiites in Iraq, stating that, “There is no difference between the Shiites of Iran and the Shiites in the rest of the Arab world either in Iraq or Lebanon. Their beliefs are the same…their hatred of Sunnis is the same” (AP, June 2). Al-Zarqawi continued, arguing, “The roots of Jews and the Shiites are the same…Anyone calling for reconciliation between Sunnis and Shiites is either a man who knows the truth but is betraying his religion and his nation…or a man who is ignorant and should be taught.” Al-Zarqawi also criticized Hezbollah, accusing the organization of presenting “deceitful slogans about Palestinian liberation when in fact it serves as a security wall [for Israel] and prevents Sunnis from crossing its borders,” explaining that Hezbollah acts as a “shield protecting the Zionist enemy against the strikes of the mujahideen in Lebanon” (Lebanon’s Daily Star, June 3). The audiotape was reportedly made two months ago, and al-Zarqawi’s statements are significant since they are an obvious attack on Shiites. There has been ongoing debate in intelligence circles as to whether al-Zarqawi’s anti-Shiite actions are opposed by the senior al-Qaeda leadership of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri (Terrorism Focus, May 2).
NEW REPORT CLAIMS BIN LADEN SPOTTED IN PAKISTAN’S DIR DISTRICT
A recent ABC News report alleging Osama bin Laden’s presence in North-West Frontier Province’s (NWFP) Upper Dir district has created a stir in Pakistan. Citing confidential Pakistani intelligence officials, the ABC report stated that bin Laden was spotted in Upper Dir after coming down from the mountains separating Pakistan and Afghanistan. Upper Dir is one of the northern most districts in the NWFP and borders Chitral, Swat and Malakand districts of the NWFP, in addition to Bajaur Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Pakistani Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao called the reports “baseless,” and authorities have blamed Kabul for the “irresponsible talk” about bin Laden sightings in Pakistan (Indo Asian News Service, May 29). According to a Terrorism Monitor report on March 23, “Dir and particularly upper Dir is a stronghold of Jamaat-e-Islami” and is a very “politically-motivated” area. “Ideologically, the masses in these towns are not committed to the cause of the Taliban and al-Qaeda…support to the extent of providing them shelter and hideouts does not seem plausible here,” the report continues. “Security agencies have a deep rooted set-up [in Dir] that has effectively detected and captured Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives.” There is some concern from local residents in the district that the ABC report will possibly plunge the relatively calm district into conflict if security services move into the area to investigate the claims.