Qaida-linked group sees 'waterfalls of blood'
CAIRO, Egypt, AP and Reuters Friday, July 30, 2004, 12:00 am TWN
A statement purportedly by an al-Qaida linked group threatens to destroy European cities and "create waterfalls of blood" because the continent failed to respond to Osama bin Laden's truce offer.
The statement dated Wednesday and posted on the Internet in the name of Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades condemns Europeans for not withdrawing their troops from Iraq and Afghanistan within three months, as bin Laden demanded April 15.
"Today, we have declared a bloody war against you. We will not stop our attacks until you have come to your senses," the statement said.
There was no way to verify the authenticity of the statement which surfaced on an Islamic Web Site known for its extremist content.
U.S. officials and some terrorism experts believe Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades, which claimed responsibility for the Madrid train bombings that killed about 200 people in March, lacks credibility and has only tenuous ties to al-Qaida. It has issued claims for events in which it almost certainly had no involvement, including blackouts in North America and Britain.
In London, British officials refused Thursday to comment directly on the statement. A Home Office spokeswoman noted that Britain takes "all necessary measures to ensure the country is protected."
The statement singled out Italy, to whom Abu Hafs al Masri Brigades addressed an earlier threat this week. The latest statement said Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi should "wait for us Berlusconi, you and your allies and supporters. Wait for our menace that we declared against you earlier, and are now declaring against all of Europe."
"We will create waterfalls of blood that will drag you to their depths. You have condemned your people to that. The infidel Europe has done the same to its people by following America. We will destroy European cities, starting by you, Berlusconi," the statement said. "The cities will bleed until all of you, European leaders and people, come to your senses. Withdraw your deadly missions from Iraq."
Also Thursday, a major political conference to chart Iraq's path to democracy was postponed until Aug. 15 under pressure from the United Nations, raising concerns that elections planned for early next year might also be delayed.
The decision to postpone the event, billed as a crucial step ahead of the January polls, came two days before it was due to begin. There had been intense discussions among the organisers, Iraq's president and U.N. representative Jamal Benomar.
Several members of the organising committee said the United Nations had threatened to withdraw its support for the event if it was not postponed.
"The U.N. said more time was needed and that it had to be delayed," committee member Sadeq Moussawi told Reuters shortly after Iraq's president, Ghazi al-Yawar, agreed to the delay.
"They said that awareness of the conference was weak, that 60 percent of Iraqis didn't know it was going on, and argued that too many groups were outside the process."
Benomar was not immediately available to comment, but earlier he told Reuters he favoured a delay, something he has been pushing for since last week, when he arrived in Iraq.
"Everybody is very much aware that the conference should take place in the best possible conditions, that it should be as inclusive as possible and that it should generate substantive debate on the country's future," he said.
"The time is very short to organise such a big undertaking, and that is why the United Nations favours putting it off."
Ahmed Chalabi, the leader of the Iraqi National Congress, one of scores of parties set to participate, said the delay came about under pressure from the United Nations and expressed concern about what he said was excessive U.N. meddling in Iraq.