Captured al Qaeda document 'shows weakness'

BAGHDAD - The US military published on Monday what it said was a captured al Qaeda document showing the Sunni Islamist guerrillas recognised they were weak and unpopular in Baghdad.

The document, an apparent review of the group's strategy in the Iraqi capital, was seized with videos on April 16 near Yusufiya, just southeast of Baghdad, the military said in a statement.

A translation of the undated, three-page document, whose authenticity could not be independently assessed, suggested al Qaeda was reviewing tactics in the city, currently focused on car bombs and other guerrilla tactics.

It proposes improving its military capabilities to hold territory, in what appeared to be preparation for any civil war.

The document was mentioned in a news briefing last week at which the military also aired what it said were outtakes from a video promoting the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, that was posted on the internet.

A spokesman mocked the Jordanian's competence with a gun and his choice of American sports shoes, seen in the unedited film.

A statement on Monday accompanying a translated transcript of the "Baghdad Strategy" document quoted another US military spokesman, Brigadier General Rudy Wright, as saying:

"This information confirms what the government of Iraq, Coalition forces and ultimately the people of Iraq already know -- that AQIZ's role only attempts to impede Iraqis in following the road to prosperity, security and national unity."

AQIZ is a US acronym for "al Qaeda in Iraq, Zarqawi".

The statement also quoted the original document as reading: "Al Qaeda in Iraq attacks mosques and other public places to draw media attention and is having difficulty recruiting members because the people of Iraq do not support its cause."

The accompanying document did not include that sentence.

Locked in a battle for public opinion as much as in combat with the Sunni insurgency in Iraq, the US military has previously released what it says are captured documents showing dissent or disillusion in the guerrilla ranks.

The translation provided by the military showed the unknown author putting the strength of active fighters, referred to as "mujahideen" or holy warriors, at about 110 in Baghdad -- 40 each in the northwest and southwest and 30 in the east.

"These are very small numbers compared to the tens of thousands of the enemy troops," the document concludes. "How can we increase these numbers?"

Since US and Iraqi officials generally assess the numbers of Sunni insurgents in the thousands, the figures may refer to hardcore Islamist militants, rather than all Sunni gunmen.

The assessment, as highlighted in the US statement, finds that "every year is worse than the previous year" in terms of the control the guerrillas exercise within Baghdad compared to that of US forces and "the Shi'ites"' Iraqi police and army.

The document expresses criticisms of the car bomb and other "surprise attacks" that are "the main strength of the brothers in Baghdad". An element of the document not mentioned in the US statement was its urging the group to prepare to hold territory, possibly in an all-out civil war.

"The policy followed by the brothers in Baghdad is a media-oriented policy without a clear comprehensive plan to capture an area or an enemy centre," the writer says, as translated by the US military.

"This direction has large positive effects; however, being preoccupied with it alone delays more important operations such as taking control of some areas, preserving it and assuming power in Baghdad (for example, taking control of a university, a hospital, or a Sunni religious site)."

The document is also critical of the Iraqi Islamic Party, the main Sunni group expected to be involved in a new, national unity government, and the Sunni Muslim Clerics Association. It describes them as rivals for influence over the Sunni minority and raises the question of the loyalties of Sunni Iraqi troops.

- REUTERS

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