DUBAI (Reuters) - The head of an al Qaeda-linked group in Iraq said the country had become a “university of terrorism”, producing highly qualified warriors, since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
In an audio recording posted on the Internet on Tuesday, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, leader of the self-styled Islamic State in Iraq, said his fighters were successfully confronting U.S. forces in Iraq and have begun producing a guided missile called al-Quds 1 or Jerusalem 1.
“The largest batch of soldiers for jihad ... in the history of Iraq are graduating and they have the highest level of competence in the world,” Baghdadi said.
He also sought to mend fences with other anti-U.S. insurgent groups in Iraq following reports of tensions between them.
“From the military point of view, one of the (enemy) devils was right in saying that if Afghanistan was a school of terror, then Iraq is a university of terrorism,” said the leader of the group set up last year by al Qaeda’s Iraq wing and some other Sunni groups.
“We would like to inform the mujahideen all over the world, and especially in Iraq, that the Quds (Jerusalem) 1 rocket has gone into the phase of military production,” Baghdadi said, adding that its length, weight, range and precision “matches those of world powers”.
Baghdadi’s group has claimed responsibility for mass kidnappings and a series of major attacks including the downing of U.S. helicopters.
“The fear of the American Marines has disappeared from the hearts of the people of the world, as the mujahideen have become thousands from the few they were after the fall of the infidel Baath regime,” Baghdadi said. “These are just some of the achievements of four years of jihad.”
Baghdadi called on insurgents to maintain their unity, warning that enemies wanted to cause splits in their ranks.
“Our friendship is deep ... and ties between us are stronger than some believe,” he said.
His comments appeared to confirm reports of a growing rift between his militant group and other insurgent organizations that accused al Qaeda of trying to impose control over them.
Addressing insurgent groups such as the Islamic Army in Iraq and the Ansar al-Sunna, Baghdadi said he strongly opposed any fighting between insurgent groups and vowed to take all necessary measures to prevent bloodshed.
“By God, you will not hear or see but good things (from us),” he said.
Ibrahim al-Shemmari, the spokesman of the Islamic Army in Iraq, welcomed Baghdadi’s remarks.
“If they want to ... preserve the blood of Sunnis, we would be the happiest people to hear this talk,” he told Al Jazeera television in a telephone interview. “We want to point out weapons at our enemies’ chests and not at each other.”
The authenticity of the tape, issued to mark the fourth anniversary of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, could not be verified. But it was posted on Web sites often used by al Qaeda and other insurgent groups in Iraq.
Additional reporting by Sami Aboudi and Inal Ersan