What are we to make of apocryphal Iraqi insurgent leader Abu Omar al-Baghdadi? We have been repeatedly told he is dead, he is captured, or he never existed. Every time one of these theories is announced to the world, he issues another statement. In 2007, he issued a statement daring Washington to nuke Iran. After Obama’s election he tentatively offered a truce if the US would immediately withdraw. Now he (supposedly) issues a statement urging his insurgents to keep fighting despite the US pull-back from Iraq’s cities. From Stars & Stripes, July 10:
Sunni leader resurfaces in recording
A suspected Sunni insurgent leader whom Iraqi forces claimed to have captured earlier this year is said to be the source of an audio recording posted online that calls for attacks on U.S. forces and recruits fighters back to the side of “the real jihadists,” according to a report in The New York Times.
Abu Omar al-Baghdadi is the reputed leader of the Islamic State of Iraq.
The Iraqi government claimed in April that al-Baghdadi had been captured, however no proof was offered and American officials never confirmed the report.
U.S. leaders have voiced the suspicion that al-Baghdadi is a fictional character conjured up to give an Iraqi face to the leadership of al-Qaida in Iraq, the Times noted.
The voice on the tape called for striking out against the U.S. military despite the recent pullback from Iraqi cities.
“Even if they are in one spot in the Iraqi desert, away from all forms of life, every Muslim must fight them until they are kicked out of that spot,” the audio statement said, according to the Times.
The speaker also seemed to acknowledge that the insurgency has lost momentum in recent years and openly recruited members, according to the times.
“Come back to the real jihadists,” he said.
“We are not going to hurt you. We are friends. We have always wished you a great life and to go to heaven after you die.”
The paper said it was not possible to confirm the authenticity of the statement, posted on a site popular with jihadists, and an Iraqi government spokesman did not return a call seeking comment.
See our last post on Iraq, the insurgency and the politics of withdrawal.
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