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Bin Laden ticks off Iraqi flock

Baghdad, Oct. 23 (AP): Osama bin Laden has scolded his al Qaida followers in Iraq and other insurgents, saying they have “been lax” for failing to overcome fanatical tribal loyalties and unite in the fight against US troops.

The message of his new audiotape reflected the growing disarray among Iraq’s Sunni Arab insurgents and bin Laden’s client group in the country, both of which are facing heavy US military pressure and an uprising among Sunni tribesmen.

In the brief tape played on Al Jazeera television, the extremist leader urged militants to “beware of division…. The Muslim world is waiting for you to gather under one banner”.

He used the word “ta’assub”— fanaticism — to chastise insurgents for putting their allegiance to tribe or radical organisation above the larger fight to overcome American forces.

While the authenticity of the tape could not be verified immediately, the voice resembled that of bin Laden in previous messages. US officials in Washington said analysts were still studying the tape. Al Jazeera did not say how it got the tape, which was bin Laden’s third this year.

“My mujahideen brothers in Iraq, you are a people worthy of praise and flattery. You’ve done well to carry out a glorious duty by fighting the enemy. But some of you have lagged behind in carrying out another glorious duty, which is to unite as one – as God wants,” bin Laden said.

He warned followers “against hypocritical enemies who are infiltrating your ranks to create sedition among mujahideen groups”.

Anthony Cordesman, a terror analyst for the Washington-based center for strategic and international studies, said bin Laden’s underlying message appeared to be aimed at al Qaida in Iraq – “that the group needs to be less arrogant and moderate its conduct”.

Cordesman pointed to al Qaida in Iraq’s attempts to impose Taliban-like Islamic laws in some areas it controlled as well as its killings of rival tribal figures, actions that alienated some Sunni Arabs and led them to join a movement opposing the militant group.

To showcase the success of that tribal alliance, the US military planned what it called a “unification parade” in Ramadi, the Anbar provincial capital, today.

Major Lee Peters, a US military spokesperson for the area, said security would be increased to protect the celebration.

It was to include at least 200 Sunni sheikhs and hundreds of other dignitaries to commemorate Sheik Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha, the founder of the anti-al Qaida group who was assassinated by a bomb on September 13.

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