A new audio tape claimed to be from ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has aired on Arabic language television. The U.S. military has launched a new round of offensives on insurgents, following Saturday's downings of two Black Hawk helicopters that killed 17 soldiers.
The new 15-minute audio tape, alleged to have been made by Saddam Hussein, was broadcast on Al-Arabiya television. Al-Arabiya says the audio tape was recorded from a telephone. The television station said it does not know where the phone call originated.
The speaker urged Iraqis to wage a holy war against coalition forces and said the United States and its allies had misjudged the difficulty of occupying Iraq. He also criticized Iraqis who are cooperating with the coalition, calling the Iraqis "stray dogs."
U.S. led forces in Iraq have captured or killed many of Saddam's closest confidants, including two of his sons, but the former Iraqi leader is believed to be at large. There is a $25 million bounty on his head.
Meanwhile, the U.S. military began a new phase of offensive operations in and around Baqubah, Kirkuk, Balad and Saddam's hometown of Tikrit. The military says it has received credible information that Saddam loyalists, criminals, and foreign fighters are operating in those areas.
For the first time since the end of major combat on May 1, the U.S. Army fired a satellite-guided missile at a former regime training site 25 kilometers west of Kirkuk. The site is believed to have been a base of operations for anti-coalition insurgents.
Dubbed "Operation Ivy Cyclone 2," the mission is the latest in a series of offensives the U.S. military has launched in recent days. The activities are in response to stepped up attacks, which have killed more than 60 U.S. troops in the past two weeks.
The first Ivy Clone operation began earlier this week, targeting the so-called "Sunni Triangle" area north and west of Baghdad where support for Saddam remains strong.
On Thursday, a U.S. Apache helicopter involved in the operation killed seven insurgents preparing to attack an American base near Tikrit. Since Saturday, the U.S. military says American forces have killed four more insurgents and have captured 42 others.