U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has warned countries near Iraq not to provide sanctuary or medical treatment to Iraq's al-Qaida leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who is believed to have been wounded by coalition forces.
Secretary Rumsfeld issued the warning during a news conference on Wednesday.
"Any country that decides it wants to provide medical assistance or haven to a leading terrorist, al-Qaida terrorist, is obviously associating themselves with al-Qaida, and contributing to a great many Iraqis being killed, as well as coalition forces in Iraq. And that's something that people would want to take note of," he said.
Secretary Rumsfeld would not elaborate on his statement. But he did say that the movement of people across all of Iraq's borders is difficult to control. He added that it is important to differentiate between countries like Saudi Arabia, which has been hit by terrorist attacks and is part of the war on terrorism, and other countries that have not been as cooperative. Recent reports have indicated that most of the suicide bombers who have struck in Iraq have been Saudis, but it is not clear how they get into Iraq.
At the same Pentagon news conference, the top U.S. military officer, General Richard Myers, said he believes Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has in fact been wounded, as his supporters have claimed on their Internet websites, but he could not say how serious the wounds are.
"The best guess is that he was injured out in western Iraq, near the Syrian border," he said. "And we believe it because the postings on their web pages seem to be consistent with other things we've seen that were true. And so the conclusion is that it's most likely that he is injured. The severity we do not know."
Statements by the Zarqawi organization say the wounds are minor and that their leader has been commanding anti-coalition activities in recent days.
General Myers again called the Zarqawi group one of the most dangerous factions in Iraq. The general said coalition forces are keeping the group under pressure, and that Iraqi troops are playing a larger and larger role in the effort.