Bin Laden calls Iraqis to boycott coming elections

&to=http:// ' target=_blank>Osama bin Laden has apparently urged Iraqis to boycott U.S.-backed elections, endorsing Sunni Muslim insurgents on the day a senior Shi'ite leader survived a car bombing and the top Sunni party pulled out of next month's vote.

Publicly hailing &to=http:// ' target=_blank>Abu Musab al-Zarqawi for the first time, an audiotape that purported to be from bin Laden gave an al Qaeda endorsement on Monday to bombings and kidnappings by the Jordanian Islamist who is Washington's most wanted man in Iraq.

"Anyone who takes part in this election consciously and willingly is an infidel," said the tape broadcast on Al Jazeera.

"I consider the prince of the mujahideen, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi a true soldier of God," it said. "He is the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq and everybody should follow him and obey him, reports SwissInfo.

According to the Daily Times, a suicide car bomber hit one of the biggest Shiite Muslim parties running in elections next month, killing 13 people but missing its leader.

The bomb exploded outside the Baghdad head office of the &to=http:// ' target=_blank>Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), a party set up in exile in Iran to oppose Saddam Hussein and one of the strongest groups contesting the January 30 election. Victims of the bombing, in which police said about 50 people were wounded, included several receptionists and guards at SCIRI’s headquarters. None of the party leadership was hurt.

The office is also home to party leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, who was there at the time. He called it an assassination attempt but said SCIRI’s thousands-strong militia would not retaliate. The SCIRI leader blamed the attack on Sunni insurgents.

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