In a rare video posted Tuesday on the Internet, al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi accused the West and the United States of waging a "crusader" war against Islam but said Muslim holy warriors were standing firm.
He also said the recent formation of a new government in Iraq was an attempt to get the United States out of a dilemma that al-Zarqawi said it now faces there.
"When the enemy entered into Iraq, their aim was to control Iraq and the area," al-Zarqawi said in the video. "But here we have been fighting them for the last three years."
In the past, al-Zarqawi has made statements only through audiotapes posted on the Web, although photos of him obtained by the U.S. government have been widely circulated.
In Washington, intelligence analysts were examing the new al-Zarqawi video. Two U.S. officials declined to comment immediately.
In the video, al-Zarqawi, who wears a beard and mustache, sat dressed in black, with ammunition cases hung from his neck and an automtic rifle propped against the wall to his right.
He wore a black scarf wrapped on his head and around his neck, while the black flag of his group, al-Qaida in Iraq, was superimposed on the screen. In another scene, he was shown sitting on the floor with four other men, all wearing black masks over their faces.
In a third scene, al-Zarqawi could be seen in a desert, holding a heavy automatic riffle as if ready to fire.
The video came just two days after a highly publicized call to arms by al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden on an audiotape played on Arab television that encouraged Muslims to support his group in its war with the West, reports AP.
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