An audio recording purportedly from al-Qaida terrorist network leader Osama bin Laden calls for Sunni Arab insurgents in Iraq to unite. On the audiotape broadcast by al-Jazeera, bin Laden says militants must overcome rivalries and beware of sectarian divisions. VOA Middle East correspondent Challiss McDonough has more from Cairo.
The al-Jazeera TV network broadcast the new audiotape that exhorts Iraqi insurgents to set aside their differences and unite to fight the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq.
The audio advises terrorists in the al-Qaida organization to beware of fanaticism in their loyalty to a man, group or nation.
The recording repeatedly uses the word "ta'assab," or "fanaticism," a word bin Laden's critics often use to refer to him and his followers. But he used the word to refer to fanatical devotion to a tribe or other group, which he called a great delusion.
The latest message purported to be by the fugitive al-Qaida leader follows reports of division amid Sunni-Arab insurgent groups in al-Anbar province. Iraqi and U.S. officials say a growing number of Anbar tribal leaders are joining the anti-al-Qaida movement started by Sheik Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha, who was killed in a bomb attack last month.
Many of those tribesman remain hostile to the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq, but Abu Risha convinced them to fight against the al-Qaida-inspired extremist groups that had established themselves in the province during the insurgency.
Iraq's Interior Ministry says the number of violent deaths in al-Anbar province has dropped 82 percent since June, partly as a result of the new cooperation against al-Qaida.
Analysts say al-Qaida in Iraq has alienated some other Sunni insurgent groups and Sunni Arab tribes because of the group's extremist interpretation of Islamic law and its willingness to kill rival tribal leaders.
The al-Qaida leader may have been making an indirect reference to those issues when he repeatedly spoke about mistakes made by al-Qaida militants in Iraq.
Addressing himself to his "mujahideen brothers in Iraq," he said they were deserving of praise but also able to accept criticism. He said some have been "lax in their higher duty, to unite" themselves as, he said, God wants.
He also warned Iraqi insurgents against what he called "hypocritical enemies" who are infiltrating their ranks to divide them.
A White House spokeswoman said the recording sounded like a terrorist trying to recapture some lost ground. But U.S. intelligence officials have previously cautioned against too much optimism over apparent gains against al-Qaida in Iraq, noting that lulls in terrorist activity in Iraq are often followed by upsurges in attacks.
The recording could not immediately be authenticated. It is not clear when it was recorded. It is the fourth message released since the beginning of September.