An audiotape message has surfaced in Iraq declaring "all-out war" against Iraqi Shiites. The voice on the tape is believed to be al-Qaida leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
The audiotape, released Wednesday, comes on the heels of increased suicide bombings in Iraq. It aired on Dubai-based TV station al Arabiya, and the Internet.
The voice, supposedly Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, declares all-out war against Shi’ites in Iraq, and warns no mercy will be shown.
Some Iraqis, like Sadiq Kadim, a Sunni, and Abbas Khudier, a Shi'ite, were not intimidated.
"There is no difference between Sunnis and Shiite,” said Sadiq. “All of us are against Zarqawi. Let him do whatever he wants. We are proceeding forward."
Abbas added, "We are scared neither of Zarqawi nor of anybody else. We, the followers of Muqtada al-Sadr were able to fight American troops, so we are ready to fight for our doctrine and for our faith in the almighty God."
Baghdad was hit especially hard by suicide bombers. At least 160 people were killed, and 570 more wounded, when more than a dozen closely-timed explosions ripped through Iraq's capital.
According to an al-Qaida Internet message, the increased attacks are in response to the coalition offensive against insurgents in Tal Afar.
Authorities also believe the recent violence is an attempt to intimidate voters, and drive a deeper wedge between Sunnis and Shi’ites, as the October 15th referendum for the Iraqi Constitution draws nearer.
But Nathan Brown, Senior Associate with the Carnegie Endowment, says the insurgents' strategy could backfire.
"There is a chance to defeat the constitution at the polls,” said Mr. Brown. “And the insurgents have to know, to the extent they try to disrupt the referendum, the people that they're blocking from getting to the polls are probably the opponents of the constitution. So their activity could actually help make the constitution pass."
Sunnis comprise approximately 20 percent of Iraq's population, and once dominated Iraqi politics when Saddam Hussein was in power. Some Sunnis are wary of their country's changing political system, but according to Mr. Brown, they do not side with al-Zarqawi either.
"Most Sunnis are probably very suspicious of the constitution, and very suspicious of the political process, very suspicious of the Americans. But the ideology of al-Zarqawi is so extreme, that I can't believe it has the support of the majority of the Sunni population."
While insurgents have been driven out of north and central Iraq, U.S. and Iraqi officials admit the recent bombings show al-Zarqawi is still capable of launching coordinated attacks.