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‘Qaida’ tape says it attacked US forces, experts disagree

Dubai, July 14 (Reuters): A tape claiming responsibility for attacks on US forces in Iraq was unlikely to have been made by al Qaida and its purported link with the group was just meant to scare the Americans, Arab analysts said today.

The videotape broadcast yesterday by Dubai-based al Arabiya television said the “Armed Islamic Movement for al Qaida, the Falluja Branch”, with members all over Iraq, was behind the attacks, some of them launched in Falluja, west of Baghdad.

But Arab experts said the tape bore none of the hallmarks of messages from Osama bin Laden and his al Qaida network already aired on Arab channels. It was not peppered with Quranic sayings and mentioned the Western calendar before the Islamic one.

Some commentators suggested the rhetoric on the tape matched the Baath Party style of loyalists of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Earlier this month, a tape said to be made by Saddam urged Iraqis to fight the US-British occupation. Khaled al-Dakheel, a Saudi columnist for the pan-Arab daily al-Hayat, said it was plausible that Baathists made the latest tape despite its denial that Saddam followers had carried out the attacks.

“I swear by God no one from his (Saddam Hussein’s) followers carried out any jihad (holy struggle) operations like he claims... they are a result of our brothers in jihad,” said the unidentified voice on the tape.

“They know what saying it’s al Qaida means for the Americans. It’s a public relations game,” Dakheel said.

Al Qaida is seen as behind the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US.

“There has been resistance for a long time, but that’s different from saying al Qaida is involved,” he said. Dakheel and others said there was no shortage of groups hostile to the Americans, from Baathists to Arab Sunni, Shia and Kurdish Islamists, to ordinary people seeking revenge for US treatment of Iraqis, which is seen as heavy-handed.

US forces have blamed Saddam’s loyalists for most of the attacks that have killed 32 US soldiers since US President George W. Bush declared major combat over in Iraq on May 1.

Calling on US forces to leave Iraq, the taped voice warned that “the end of America will be at the hands of Islam” and threatened an attack in coming days that would “break the back of America completely”.

It was not clear if the tape, which stated the date as July 10, 2003, meant an attack in Iraq, where 148,000 US troops are stationed, or elsewhere.

The only image on the tape was a still of an unidentified white-bearded man in a turban. A spokesman for al Arabiya said the channel had received an anonymous call asking it to collect the tape from a location in Baghdad.

Diaa Rashwan of the al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo said it was probably a freelance Islamist group drawing inspiration from al Qaida.

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