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Website: Zarqawi Slams Sistani, Shi'ites for November Fallujah Offensive


Terrorist mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi has apparently surfaced in an audiotape on the Internet, seeking to further divide Iraq's Sunnis and Shi'ites 10 days before national elections.

The 75-minute-long statement took aim at the country's ascendant Shi'ites, who are expected to win a majority of seats in the transitional assembly.

In the tape, Zarqawi accuses their highest religious authority, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, of approving November's U.S.-led invasion to crush insurgents hiding in the Sunni stronghold of Fallujah. He also accuses Shi'ites of killing innocents in Fallujah, and claims they fought alongside 800 Israeli soldiers as well as Jordanian troops.

The authenticity of the tape has not been established.

Many of Fallujah's residents fled ahead of November's offensive. The U.S. military said Thursday that the city is now completely reopened and a little more than half of its residents have returned.

Some information for this report provided by AFP and Reuters.