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Website: Al-Zarqawi Responding to Iraq Security Push

Dubai, 29 May 2005 (RFE/RL) -- An internet statement attributed to Al-Qaeda-affiliated leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi says he is overseeing a response to the "Operation Lightning" security push launched by Iraqi government forces in Baghdad today.

The web statement says squadrons and brigades directed by al-Zarqawi, who leads the Tanzim Qa'idat Al-Jihad fi Bilad Al-Rafidayn militant group, have launched an operation.

It said the operation was a reply to the military crackdown in Baghdad announced by the Iraqi ministers of defense and interior.

It was not possible to verify the authenticity of the internet statement, the latest in a series of conflicting messages about the health of the Jordanian-born militant and his role in the insurgency.

Previous statements have said he was wounded and command had passed to a deputy. Another message said he was in good health and directing insurgent operations.

Earlier today, U.S. General Richard Myers, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he believes al-Zarqawi has indeed been wounded. (agencies)

Copyright (c) 2005. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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