Iraqi Qaeda group wants funds raised for fighters

DUBAI, Feb 14 (Reuters) - The leader of an al Qaeda-linked Iraqi group has called on Muslims to form secret cells to help finance militants and provide aid for their families, mainly for Palestinians in their struggle with Israel.

"We propose that every money-earning Muslim should save $2 a month, of which half would be allotted to our folk in Palestine while the rest goes to other fronts," Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, leader of the self-styled Islamic State in Iraq, said in a recording posted on the Internet on Thursday.

"Secret societies with limited sizes in every street should collect theses funds and preserve them or invest them until an opportunity emerges to deliver them to those who deserve them," said the leader of the group believed by U.S. and Iraqi officials to be a front for the main homegrown al Qaeda network in Iraq.

Baghdadi said Israel was a "germ planted in the body of the (Muslim) nation and should be removed even if traitors sign thousands of peace treaties with it".

The militant leader, whose group has claimed responsibility for kidnappings and attacks on U.S. and government forces in Iraq, said the Islamic State was willing to offer Palestinian fighters training including on how to make bombs and rockets.

He said Muslims in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt should fight alongside Palestinians and provide them with aid. "We admit shortcomings" in supporting Palestinian fighters, he said.

Baghdadi said he saw Iraq as a "corner stone for the return of Jerusalem" to Muslim rule.

"Every Muslim is responsible for the liberation of the al-Aqsa Mosque as every Palestinian Muslim is responsible for the liberation of Iraq, Chechnya and other Islamic countries," Baghdadi said in reference to Islam's third holiest site in Arab East Jerusalem, a site also revered by Jews.

Baghdadi criticised Hamas for turning to politics and urged its military wing to renounce the political leadership which he said was allied with "apostate" regimes in Syria and Egypt.

Hamas, sworn to the destruction of Israel, halted suicide attacks in 2004, paving the way for entering the political arena against its rivals in President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction.

It won a Palestinian parliamentary election in 2006, defeating Fatah but Abbas sacked a Hamas-led unity government and appointed a Fatah-backed administration in the occupied West Bank after Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in June.

Earlier this month Hamas claimed responsibility for its first suicide bombing since 2004 saying it was behind the attack in which an Israeli woman was killed in the southern town of Dimona on Feb. 4. (Reporting by Inal Ersan; editing by Elizabeth Piper)