September 23, 2004 Special Dispatch No. 788

Al-Zarqawi Associate: Al-Zarqawi Unconnected To Al-Qa'ida, Seeks To Expand Fighting To Entire Region

September 23, 2004
Iraq | Special Dispatch No. 788

The London Arabic-language daily Al-Hayat interviewed an unidentified Islamist Arab who has recently met with Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi in Fallujah. The following are excerpts from the interview: [1]

The Goals of Al-Zarqawi's Struggle

According to the source, Al-Zarqawisaid: "We are fighting in Iraq but our eyes are raised not only to Iraq but also to other places, such as Jerusalem." He added, "[Al-Zarqawi] has a strategy and an aspiration to expand the fighting to the entire region."

The source reported that Al-Zarqawi "came to this arena only to expel the Americans from the Muslims' country and to establish an Islamic government. This is part of the goal, because if this is not done, how will we be able to bring about coups d'etat in neighboring countries? How can we rescue Jerusalem when we have no base from which to set out? Rescuing Jerusalem and the neighboring countries will come only after the rise of an Islamic state from which the youth will set out to liberate the neighboring areas."

The Murder of Hostages in Iraq

Responding to "condemnation for the abhorrent murder of hostages by Al-Zarqawi's Al-Tawhid Wa'Al Jihad organization, " the source said that Al-Zarqawi is convinced that his operations are permitted by Shari'a [Islamic law], and that the hostages "are not truly hostages. There is a difference between a hostage and a spy or a captive. The sentence for spies is death. But there is some dispute about how it is to be carried out – by the sword or by shooting."

According to the source, Al-Zarqawi "accepts comments" from ulema [Muslim religious leaders] regarding whether his killing operations are permitted or forbidden according to Islam – provided that the ulema are not connected to a regime and are offering opinions out of personal conviction, and not to please their rulers. He also said that there is evidence in the Shari'a that Al-Zarqawi's killings are permitted, even if they include the mutilation of corpses: "Allah has permitted us to repay them in kind, with the same means that they use. If they kill our women, we will kill their women."

Al-Zarqawi's Attitude toward Shi'ites

In response to a question about Al-Zarqawi's stance regarding Shi'ites – especially in light of an open letter attributed to him stating that he wants a civil war in Iraq in which Shi'ites will be attacked – the source said: "Isn't it true that it was the Americans who distributed the letter? What do you expect of your enemy? Their lie is obvious." He added, "Al-Zarqawi's position [on Shi'ites] is clear… The entire Salafi stream believes that the Shi'a is an infidel ideology. I believe this and Abu Mus'ab [Al-Zarqawi] believes that the Shi'a is heresy. But this does not mean that we declare the Shi'ite masses infidels. We must call upon them to atone to Allah."

According to the source, Al-Zarqawi said: "If the Shi'ites were not killing us, we would not be killing them. Our main enemy is the Americans and the Iraqi state. But the truth is that the Shi'ites killed the Sunnis." He stated: "The Shi'ites are the base of the pyramid of the ruling Iraqi government. They also make up a considerable percentage of the armed forces established by the occupation forces to defend this government. Shi'ite forces came to Fallujah and fought the residents, and the same thing happened in Najaf: It was the Shi'ites who attacked [Muqtada] Al-Sadr, not the Americans."

The source went on to say that the groups fighting today in Iraq maintain that "anyone who enters this country together with the Americans in the context of their occupation is an infidel. We are not talking about an apostateregime, regarding which there is disagreement whether it should be declared infidel. [But] there is no dispute regarding anyone who collaborates with the occupation – he is a traitor and he must be killed, regardless of whether he is a Sunni, a Shi'ite, or a Turk."

Al-Zarqawi's Connection to Al-Qa'ida

With regard to the claims that Al-Zarqawi is affiliated with Al-Qa'ida, the source said: "I wish that he was an Al-Qa'ida representative in Iraq. But the truth is that Al-Zarqawi has his own organization. He is not an Al-Qa'ida member and has no connection to Sheikh Osama [bin Laden]. They only employ the same method.

"There is no organizational connection between them – on the contrary, many Arab youth have said that they will swear allegiance to Al-Zarqawi provided that he swear allegiance to Sheikh Osama. They say that so far he has not sworn allegiance, and that he used to say: 'to this day I have not sworn allegiance to Sheikh Osama and I am not acting in the framework of his organization…'"

[1] Al-Hayat (London), September 10, 2004.

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