CAIRO, Egypt – Al-Qaida’s branch in Iraq, blamed for numerous terror attacks on U.S. and Iraqi targets, said Tuesday in an Internet posting that its leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, had been wounded and called on supporters to pray for his recovery.
The posting’s authenticity could not be verified, but it was posted on a Web site known for carrying prior statements by al-Qaida in Iraq and other militant groups.
The statement, which purportedly was from the group’s media coordinator, Abu Maysarah al-Iraqi, did not say how or when al-Zarqawi was injured. Al-Iraqi is known to be the group’s media coordinator, but there was no way to confirm if the statement was true or that it was posted by al-Qaida in Iraq.
Al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian, has claimed responsibility for attacks on Iraqi civilians and security forces, kidnappings and beheadings of foreigners, and has a $25 million bounty on his head — the same as for al-Qaida leader
Osama bin Laden.
“Let the near and far know that the injury of our leader is an honor, and a cause to close in on the enemies of God, and a reason to increase the attacks against them,” the statement said.
Media reports earlier this month said the U.S. military was investigating whether al-Zarqawi was being treated at a Ramadi hospital.
The Washington Post reported May 5 that al-Qaida in Iraq had posted a statement at two mosques, including one in Ramadi, saying al-Zarqawi was at the hospital during the April 28 raid but escaped capture. Ramadi residents told The Associated Press at the time they had seen no such statements.
U.S. forces searched the hospital in central Iraq after receiving a tip from an informant about possible terrorist activities there related to al-Zarqawi, but no insurgents were found, the U.S. military said at the time.