New message from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi

In a rambling 17-minute audio message addressed to &to=http:// ' target=_blank>Osama bin Laden, the voice of a man claiming to be Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the United States' most wanted man in Iraq, acknowledged reports that he had been wounded but said that his wounds were slight and that he was still in Iraq.

The authenticity of the audiotape, which was posted on an Islamic Web site late Monday night but bore Saturday's date, could not immediately be verified. But Rita Katz, director of the SITE Institute, an American nonprofit group that monitors Islamist Web sites and news operations, said the voice sounded like Mr. Zarqawi's.

The tape came after days of conflicting reports about Mr. Zarqawi's health, some of which described him as near death and others saying he had left Iraq to seek medical care.

In a message "from a soldier to his emir," the taped voice spoke in measured tones on topics ranging from Islamic history to recent battles in Qaim, a city near Iraq's western border with Syria, where 1,000 American marines fought Islamic militants this month. The message also expressed personal warmth toward Mr. bin Laden, reports the New York Times.

"I want you, my sheik, to know, that all that far distance between us is because of &to=http:// ' target=_blank>jihad, and I pray to God that we will be brought together again," the voice said. "We are here to fight, to raise the Islamic flag very high again."

According to the Forbes, a statement last week on an Islamist website said that Iraq's most wanted man was wounded and command had passed to a deputy, while another message Friday said he was in good health and directing insurgent operations.

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