BAGHDAD, Iraq – An anti-American operative in Iraq appealed for help from al-Qaida leaders to help spark a sectarian war between Shiite and Sunni Muslims in an effort to drive the U.S. out of the country, a senior U.S. military officer said Monday.
Confirming a report in The New York Times, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy chief of operations, said U.S. authorities believe the memo was written by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian who is suspected of having ties to al-Qaida.
“We believe the report and document are credible,” Kimmitt told reporters. “We take the report seriously.”
Coalition spokesman Dan Senor said the document shows that “it is clear that the type of techniqes we have seen all these have fingerprints of al-Qaida and foreign fighters.”
The document “talks about a strategy of provoking violence by targeting Shiites and Shiite leaders … all focused on ethinc sectarian warfare and tearing the country apart,” Senor said.
The alleged plan is outlined in a 17-page memo that U.S. forces confiscated from an al-Qaida suspect in Iraq, the Times reported Monday. The paper said its reporter viewed the Arabic document and a military translation on Sunday.
The Times says the document is the strongest evidence to date of contacts between extremists in Iraq and al-Qaida.
The document expresses frustration over efforts to force the United States out of Iraq and suggests that attacks on Shiites would prompt retaliation against Sunnis and a cycle of widening violence, the Times said.
“It is the only way to prolong the duration of the fight between the infidels and us,” the document says. “If we succeed in dragging them into a sectarian war, this will awaken the sleepy Sunnis who are fearful of destruction and death at the hands” of Shiites.
The Times said that American forces arrested a man who had the document on a computer disc and was taking it to Afghanistan (news – web sites) to get it to al-Qaida’s senior leaders. U.S. officials did not identify the man who had the document.
The author of the document claimed he had directed about 25 suicide bombings inside Iraq, but said the resistance against the U.S. occupation was struggling to recruit Iraqis and to combat American troops.
The memo even offers a kind of praise for U.S. forces, saying “America, however, has no intention of leaving no matter how many wounded nor how bloody it becomes.”