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Zarqawi rallies Muslims as US strikes Falluja
DUBAI: A statement in the name of al Qaeda ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi called on Muslims today to take up arms against their US enemy as American troops mounted a massive offensive against the rebel-held Iraqi city of Falluja.
"Oh people, the war has begun and the call for jihad has been made," said the Zarqawi statement posted on an Arabic website often used by Islamists.
"Despite all the agonies that we are suffering, by God, the enemies will only see things that will harm them," he said. "Let us resist them with all our might and let us spend all that is precious in fighting them. Be patient, it is only a matter of days before victory will come with the help of God."
Zarqawi made his appeal as Iraqi and US troops began a huge operation to wrestle back Falluja from Muslim insurgents – though his statement did not mention the city by name.
Another militant group, the Islamic Army in Iraq, posted a statement on its website calling for intensified attacks on US-led forces and for more hostage takings.
"In such circumstances the leadership of the Islamic Army in Iraq orders all its forces to escalate operations to the highest level and urges the mujahideen everywhere to repel the infidel," said the statement which also did not mention Falluja by name.
The US military says 1000 to 6000 fighters – Saddam Hussein supporters and foreign Islamic militants led by Zarqawi – are holed up in the town's alleyways and on rooftops.
"Why don't you seize the opportunity so that you will be spared the pain of the grave? You should know that martyrs are considered alive in heaven," Zarqawi's statement said.
It accused Muslim scholars of leaving militants "to face the most powerful force on earth" and surrendering land to "Jews and crusaders and their tails – the infidel rulers".
Zarqawi's Al Qaeda Organisation of Holy War in Iraq has claimed responsibility for hostage beheadings and some of Iraq's bloodiest suicide attacks.