al-Qaida in Iraq Releases Audiotape

Al-Qaida in Iraq released on Thursday what was purported to be the first audiotape by its new leader, Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, in which he vowed victory was coming and condemned Sunni Muslims cooperating with the Iraqi government.

Muhajer was named leader of Iraq's most feared terror group after his predecessor, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed in a June 7 airstrike north of Baghdad. The U.S. military has put a $5 million bounty on al-Muhajer's head.

Until now, al-Muhajer has kept a low profile, issuing no statements in his name since a written message released soon after he became al-Qaida in Iraq's leader.

His silence has been in sharp contrast with al-Zarqawi, who put himself forward as a hero of the mujahedeen, or holy warriors, frequently issuing audiotapes - and even a videotape that showed his face a few weeks before he was killed.

The authenticity of Thursday's 20-minute tape, posted on an Islamic militant Web forum, could not be independently confirmed.

In the tape, al-Muhajer appeared to be adopting a similar style, speaking in the same fiery tones as his predecessor, with the sounds of lions roaring and thunderclaps mixed into the audio.

Al-Muhajer - a nom de guerre - also apparently revealed his real name. He ended the tape by saying, "servant of the mujahedeen, Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, Abdul-Menem al-Badawi."

The name was not immediately recognizable as a known militant. U.S. officials have said al-Muhajer is an Egyptian known under another pseudonym as Abu Ayyoub al-Masri, an explosives expert who trained with al-Zarqawi in Osama bin Laden's camps in Afghanistan.

Al-Muhajer threatened new attacks against U.S. forces and their Iraqi allies and addressed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, saying, "We are still sticking to our obligation."

"The fire in our blood will never cool, and the swords that have been colored with your blood are still thirsty for more of your rotten heads," he said, addressing the Americans and their allies.

He urged his followers "not to rest until each one of you kill at least one American within the next 15 days, by a sniper bullet, spear, explosive or martyrdom car."

He also addressed two Sunni political parties that are participating in the Iraqi government - the Iraqi Islamic Party and the Accordance Front - saying they "lied ... and have betrayed your nation."

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