June 23, 2004 – In a recorded message released today, a voice purported to be that of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi threatens to assassinate US-appointed Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. "We pledge to go all the way without giving up, so that you will meet the same fate as Izzadine Saleem," says the voice, referring to the former president of Iraqâ€™s now-dissolved Governing Council, assassinated on May 17. Hamed Al-Bayati, the Iraqi deputy foreign minister, acknowledged the recording in an interview with the BBC today and described Al-Zarqawi as "very dangerous." The United States has accused Al-Zarqawi of masterminding a spate of car bombings and hostage takings in Iraq, including the beheadings of American and South Korean contractors Nicholas Berg and Kim Sun-Il.
The recording also condemns recent airstrikes on Fallujah, which the US says targeted "safehouses" belonging to Al-Zarqawiâ€™s network. The voice denies Al-Zarqawi was at the sites hit by US forces, whom the recording refers to as "fools." The voice taunts Al-Zarqawiâ€™s pursuers: "I move around Iraq, travelling up and down the country to be greeted as a guest by my brothers and my kindred."
The recording calls Allawi "the symbol of evil and agent of infidelity" and calls the prime minister a "hypocrite." Allawiâ€™s violent past has been the subject of several reports recently. An article in The New Yorker quotes ex-CIA Middle East case officer Reuel Marc Gerecht referring to Allawi as a "thug." Before he became a CIA asset, The New Yorker reports, Allawi worked on a "hit team" in the Baâ€™ath partyâ€™s secret police.