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GUEST,Woody BS: Inconvenient truths for Libs (85* d) RE: BS: Inconvenient truths for Libs 18 Jun 06 Tape Says Zarqawi Death 'Great Loss'

The Associated Press
Friday, June 16, 2006; 6:40 PM

CAIRO, Egypt -- A key insurgency leader in Iraq said the U.S. killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was a "great loss," but one that will strengthen the militants' determination, according to an audio tape broadcast Friday.

The Al-Jazeera network said the voice on the tape was that of Abu Abdullah Rashid al-Baghdadi, the head of the Mujahedeen Shura Council, which groups five Iraqi insurgent organizations including al-Qaida in Iraq. But the authenticity of the tape couldn't immediately be verified.

"This is a message to the enemies of God, the crusaders, the rejectionists and the renegades," the voice says, referring respectively to U.S.-led forces, Shiites, and Sunnis in the government. "The martyrdom of the leader will not change the arena of confrontation. Rather, it will become fiercer and stronger."

The tape appeared to be an attempt to rally support for the insurgents after last week's killing of al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq who died when U.S. forces bombed the house north of Baghdad where he was meeting his advisers.

"This leader (al-Zarqawi) has laid the foundations and his great loss will not lead to weakness. He will remain a symbol for all the mujahideen, who will take strength from his steadfastness," the speaker says.

Significantly, the speaker does not mention the man that the insurgent group has chosen to replace al-Zarqawi _ Abu Ayub al-Masri, also known as Abu Hamza al-Muhajer. The lack of such a reference may suggest that al-Baghdadi does not support him.

Some terror experts mentioned al-Baghdadi as the possible successor of al-Zarqawi, but the U.S. military believe al-Qaida in Iraq is now led by al-Masri, an Egyptian-born terrorist who trained with al-Zarqawi in Afghanistan.

Al-Baghdadi is believed to be a former officer in Saddam's army, or its elite Republican Guard, who has worked closely with al-Zarqawi since the overthrow of the Iraqi dictator in April 2003

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