U.S. military releases footage of al-Zarqawi fumbling with gun

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is shown wearing American tennis shoes and unable to operate his automatic rifle in video released Thursday by the U.S. military as part of a propaganda war aimed at undercutting the image of the terror leader.

The U.S. command showed the footage to reporters at a time when it is stepping up operations against al-Qaida in Iraq and making overtures to other Sunni groups. The Americans hope to isolate religious extremists from insurgents they believe are more likely to cut a deal to end the war.

The clips were part of a longer video that U.S. troops seized in a raid last month. Al-Qaida in Iraq militants posted an edited version of the same video on the Internet April 25 but without the embarrassing segments.

Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, spokesman for the U.S. command, mocked al-Zarqawi as the previously unseen footage showed a smiling al-Qaida leader first firing single shots from a U.S.-made M-249 light machine gun. A frown creeps across al-Zarqawi's face as the weapon appears to jam. He looks at the rifle, confused, then summons another fighter.

By contrast, portions posted on the Web showed the Jordanian-born al-Zarqawi confidently blasting away with bursts of automatic gunfire.

"It's supposed to be automatic fire, he's shooting single shots," Lynch said of the new footage. "Something is wrong with his machine gun. He looks down, can't figure out, calls his friend to come unblock the stoppage and get the weapon firing again."

Another clip showed al-Zarqawi dressed in a black uniform but wearing New Balance tennis shoes as he walked to a white pickup, Lynch said.

"And his close associates around him ... do things like grab the hot barrel of the machine gun and burn themselves," Lynch said. "Makes you wonder" about their military skills, reports AP.

O.Ch.