Al-Qaeda's leader in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, said in an audio tape put onto the Internet that rockets had been fired at Israel from Lebanon last month "on the instructions" of the network's overall chief Osama bin Laden.
"The rocket firing at the ancestors of monkeys and pigs from the south of Lebanon was only the start of a blessed in-depth strike against the Zionist enemy…All that was on the instructions of the sheikh of the mujahedeen, Osama bin laden, may God preserve him," the voice attributed to the Jordanian extremist said.
The tape was placed on the site normally used by his group, the Organization of Al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, which had claimed responsibility for the rockets in an on-line statement on December 29.
"This commendable feat came in application by the mujahedeen of the oath by fighter sheikh Osama bin Laden, emir of the Al-Qaeda network, may God preserve him," added the recording referring to repeated statements by Bin Laden that the Israelis should not enjoy security as long as Muslims were not safe.
Blasting the "crusaders forces"
The IDF had carried out an air strike the previous day against a base of a Syrian-backed Palestinian group on the southern outskirts of Beirut in retaliation for cross-border Katyusha rocket attacks on northern Israel.
Zarqawi also said the guerrillas had carried out nearly 800 operations against "the crusader forces" since the occupation of Iraq, putting "crusader" casualties at around 40,000 soldiers.
"Since the start of mujahedeen operations after the fall of the Baathist regime and until today, nearly 800 martyr operations aimed at crusader targets and military convoys have been carried out … We estimate casualties among the adorers of the Cross in Iraq at no less than 40,000 soldiers," he declared.
"That's why they (the Americans) asked for help from the Arab League, represented by its secretary-general Amr Mussa, and called for the Cairo meeting," said Zarqawi, hitting out at member countries that took part in the November meeting dedicated to Iraq under Arab League auspices.
The Iraqi leaders who participated in the Cairo meeting agreed on a "road map" for national conciliation, calling for a calendar for withdrawal of foreign forces and the release of detainees who had not been charged.
Zarqawi hit out at the Sunni Muslim Iraqi Islamic Party for having taken part in the December 15 general elections, and called on it to renounce such actions.
"We call on the Islamic Party to abandon the road to perdition on which it has embarked and which threatened to cause the loss of the Sunni community," Zarqawi said, adding that the party "should have called the people to jihad (holy war)."
The Iraqi Al-Qaeda leader then laid down two conditions for giving up the jihad.
"First, chase out the invaders from our territory in Palestine, in Iraq and everywhere in Islamic land.
"Second, instal sharia (Islamic law) on the entire Earth and spread Islamic justice there...The attacks will not cease until after the victory of Islam and the setting up of sharia," he swore.
Zarqawi concluded: "O young Muslims everywhere in the world and in particular in the neighboring countries (of Iraq) and in Yemen, I recommend jihad to you...O nation of Islam, America is today drawing its last breath."