WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was “intimately involved” in the killing of American hostage Eugene Armstrong, a U.S. intelligence official says after the CIA determined that the al Qaeda ally was the speaker on the videotape of the beheading.
“There is high confidence that the voice is indeed of Abu Musab al Zarqawi,” a CIA official said on Tuesday, on condition of anonymity, after the spy agency conducted a technical analysis of the tape.
Zarqawi’s Tawhid and Jihad group later said it had killed a second American captive in Iraq after the lapse of a 24-hour deadline on Tuesday, Arabic channel Al Jazeera said.
It said a statement announcing the killing had been posted on the Internet but gave no further details.
The video of Armstrong’s killing was posted on the Internet by Zarqawi’s group, and showed a masked man who read a statement, handed the script to another person, then pulled out a knife and put it to the neck of the hostage.
Then there is a cut in the film as the camera zooms in to show a close-up of hands as the hostage is decapitated, which makes it difficult to determine with absolute certainty whether Zarqawi is still the one wielding the knife.
“He (Zarqawi) was obviously intimately involved in the murder,” a U.S. intelligence official said on condition of anonymity.
The speaker on the video rails against President George W. Bush — “Oh, you Christian dog Bush, stop your arrogance.”
The statement also says: “The mujahideen will give America a taste of the degradation you have inflicted on the Iraqi people.”
The group said it would kill another hostage if the United States did not release women being held in prisons in Iraq.
The U.S. military says no women are being held in the two prisons specified but that two are in U.S. custody and are accused of working on ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s weapons program.
Bush, speaking in New York, said: “Yesterday, an American citizen was beheaded. We express our heartfelt condolences. We send our prayers to the Armstrong family.”
“We also stand in solidarity with the American that is now being held captive. We send our prayers to his wife,” he said. “These killers want to shake our will. They want to determine the fate of the Iraqi people.”