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Bin Laden tape urges followers to unite

Warns insurgents to beware of strife

A file image taken from a video released in September of Osama Bin Laden delivering a speech. A file image taken from a video released in September of Osama Bin Laden delivering a speech. (AFP/Getty Images)

BAGHDAD - Osama bin Laden scolded his Al Qaeda followers in Iraq and other insurgents yesterday, saying they have "been lax" for failing to overcome fanatical tribal loyalties and unite in the fight against US troops.

The message of his new audiotape reflected the growing disarray among Iraq's Sunni Arab insurgents and bin Laden's client group in the country, both of which are facing heavy US military pressure and an uprising among Sunni tribesmen.

In the brief tape played on Al-Jazeera television, the terrorist leader urged militants to "beware of division . . . The Muslim world is waiting for you to gather under one banner." He used the word "ta'assub" - "fanaticism" - to chastise insurgents for putting their allegiance to tribe or radical organization above the larger fight to overcome American forces.

While the authenticity of the tape could not be verified immediately, the voice resembled that of bin Laden in previous messages. US officials in Washington said analysts were still studying the tape. Al-Jazeera did not say how it got the tape, which was bin Laden's third this year.

"My mujahedeen brothers in Iraq, you are a people worthy of praise and flattery. You've done well to carry out a glorious duty by fighting the enemy. But some of you have lagged behind in carrying out another glorious duty, which is to unite as one - as God wants," bin Laden said.

He warned followers "against hypocritical enemies who are infiltrating your ranks to create sedition among mujahideen groups."

Anthony Cordesman, a terror analyst for the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, said bin Laden's underlying message appeared to be aimed at Al Qaeda in Iraq - "that Al Qaeda needs to be less arrogant and moderate its conduct."

Cordesman pointed to Al Qaeda in Iraq's attempts to impose Taliban-like Islamic laws in some areas it controlled as well as its killings of rival tribal figures, actions that alienated some Sunni Arabs and led them to join a movement opposing Al Qaeda.

To showcase the success of that tribal alliance, the US military planned what it called a "unification parade" in Ramadi, the Anbar provincial capital, today.

Major Lee Peters, a military spokesman for the area, said security would be increased to protect the celebration. It was to include at least 200 Sunni sheiks and hundreds of other dignitaries to commemorate Sheik Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha, the founder of the anti-Al Qaeda group who was assassinated by a bomb Sept. 13.

Abdul-Sattar's brother, who has taken over the movement, said it was important to maintain pressure on insurgents, recalling that about 50 Al Qaeda militants marched through downtown Ramadi a year ago in a show of force.

"The people felt weak and afraid because of Al Qaeda. Now there is a feeling of strength," Sheik Ahmed Abu Risha told The Associated Press at his heavily guarded compound as a band practiced for the parade in the backyard. "This year I want to have a good parade to show that we support the law."

The US military, meanwhile, kept up pressure on Shi'ite Muslim militants as well.

Baghdad police said US helicopters strafed a building in the capital's Sadr City district, wounding a woman and her daughter, the second claim in as many days of civilian casualties from US attacks in the Shi'ite enclave.

Iraqi officials disputed an American military claim that 49 militants were killed Sunday in a ground and air assault that targeted an Iranian-linked militia chief, insisting the number of casualties was 15 - all civilians.

Aides to radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr condemned the raid but urged followers to abide by his orders to refrain from violence despite what it called "the crimes of the Americans."

Other Shi'ite neighborhoods in Baghdad were rattled by bombs Monday as at least 50 people were killed or found dead nationwide, according to police, hospital, and morgue officials.

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