An Iraqi militant group led by Al Qaeda said it formed a coalition to step up the fight against US-led forces and urged Sunni Muslim tribal leaders to join, according to a Web video posted yesterday.
The Mujahideen Shura Council said the “Mutayibeen Coalition”? already counted as its members three smaller insurgent groups and leaders of “loyal”? Sunni tribes. The new body was named after an historic coalition formed to unite a major Arab tribe.
“We call on all the mujahideen (holy fighters), scholars, tribal elders and dignitaries to join hands with their brothers in the coalition to implement God’s sharia, expel the occupiers and bring victory to God’s oppressed people,”? said a voice on the video tape posted on a main Islamist Web site.
The tape showed six men, whose faces were hidden, wearing white Arab robes and sitting in a circle, before taking an oath.
“We swear by God to do our utmost to free our prisoners and to rid Sunnis from the oppression of the rejectionists (Shi’ite Muslims) and the crusader occupiers…,”? the men on the video pledged. The video tape’s authenticity could not be verified.
The Mujahideen Shura Council, an umbrella group led by Iraq’s branch of Al Qaeda, frequently claims responsibility for attacks against US-led forces and the Shi’ite-led Baghdad government.
Some traditional-minded Iraqi tribal leaders have offered to help the government fight Islamist militants, alienated by their violence and severe interpretation of Islam. Washington hopes this split in the Sunni community could lead to an alliance against militants.
Meanwhile, the top US commander in Iraq said he did not need more US troops despite levels of sectarian and insurgent violence as high as they’ve ever been there.
General George Casey, who commands the 142,000-member US force in Iraq, said it is an “open question” whether more US troops would stabilize the country faster.
“It’s a tough nut, whether or not bringing in more troops, more US troops will have a signifcant long term impact on the violence,”? Casey said at a news conference here with US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. He spoke after meeting at the White House with President George W Bush, who expressed confidence in Casey’s advice despite the worsening violence.