Iraq's top al-Qaida terrorist, angered by a postelection lull in violence, ordered insurgents a month ago to intensify attacks, and his lieutenants began plotting their deadly mission during a secret meeting in Syria, a top U.S. military official said Wednesday.
The Syrian meeting, possibly attended by &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/accidents/21/93/375/14782_.html ' target=_blank>Abu Musab al-Zarqawi himself, has led to one of the bloodiest periods since the U.S.-led invasion two years ago. Nearly 500 people have been killed including an Iraqi general mowed down in a driveby shooting Wednesday since the country's new Shiite-dominated government was announced April 28.
Several Shiite and Sunni Muslim clerics were among the victims, raising fears that sectarian tensions could ignite a civil war. A chilling, rambling Internet audiotape purportedly by al-Zarqawi denounced Iraq's Shiites as U.S. collaborators and said killing them is justified, reports ABC News.
According to VOA News, General Abizaid spoke after a classified discussion with members of the U.S. Congress about military operations in his area of responsibility, which includes Iraq and Afghanistan. He accused Abu Musab Zarqawi of perverting the meaning of Islam to try to justify the killing of innocent Iraqi men, women and children.
General Abizaid's boss, the top U.S. military officer, &to=http:// english.pravda.ru/cis/2002/11/23/39862.html ' target=_blank>General Richard Myers, called Zarqawi a "criminal" who will go to "any lengths" to try to spark a civil war in Iraq.
"A lot of Iraqi men, women and children have died because this violent extremist is trying to convince others to do it. Talk about a guy that just has absolutely no moral foundation. It's an outrage," said Mr. Myers.
General Myers said recent public opinion polls in Iraq indicate that the Iraqi people understand what the Zarqawi group is trying to do, and do not support it.