Al Qaeda's deputy leader sought to bolster the terror network's main arm in Iraq in a new video released Thursday, calling on Muslims to rally behind it at a time when the group is on the defensive, faced with U.S. offensives and splits with other insurgent groups.
Ayman al-Zawahiri defended the Islamic State of Iraq — the insurgent umbrella group headed by al Qaeda — against critics among Islamic militant groups, saying it was a vanguard for fighting off the U.S. military and eventually establishing a "caliphate" of Islamic rule across the region.
Al-Zawahiri, the top deputy of Osama bin Laden, called on Muslims to follow a two-pronged strategy: work at home to topple "corrupt" Arab regimes and join al Qaeda's "jihad," or holy war, in Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia to fight and train "to prepare for the next jihad."
The Egyptian militant did not mention last week's failed car bombing attempts in Britain, which British authorities are investigating for al Qaeda links. That suggested the video, posted Thursday on an Islamic militant Web site, was made before the events in London and Glasgow.
Al Qaeda's declaration of the Islamic State of Iraq last year was a dramatic move aimed at staking out its leadership of Iraq's insurgency. Allying itself with several smaller Iraqi Sunni insurgent groups, it presented the Islamic State as an alternative government within Iraq, claiming to hold territory.
The move quickly met resistance. Some Islamic extremist clerics in the Arab world said it was too soon to declare an Islamic state because the Islamic law qualifications were not yet met and argued that a true Islamic state is not viable while there are still U.S. forces in Iraq.
Several large Iraqi Sunni insurgent groups publicly denounced al Qaeda, saying its fighters were killing theirs and pressuring them to join the Islamic State. One group, the 1920 Revolution Brigades, has begun overtly cooperating with U.S. forces and Sunni tribal leaders to attack al Qaeda.
In other recent developments:
The U.S. military said two American soldiers died and two others were wounded by a roadside bomb in south Baghdad. The bomb used was an explosively formed penetrator, a type of weapon that is provided to Iraqi extremists by Iran, the U.S. military said. Iran denied the allegation. No further details about the incident have been released.
Prime Minister John Howard insisted oil had nothing to do with Australia's involvement in the Iraq war, contradicting his defense minister who said Thursday that protecting Iraq's oil supplies is one of his country's motivations for keeping troops there.
Iraq's Shiite and Kurdish leaders on Thursday were trying to overcome a Sunni Arab boycott of the Cabinet of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, which threatens to hold up a key new oil law. The United States is pressing hard for passage of the long-delayed oil law in hopes it will encourage Sunni support of the government.
With hundreds of civilian contractors killed in Iraq since the war began, some lawmakers are taking a closer look at the costs and benefits of hiring private soldiers. CBS News correspondent Cami McCormick reports a new movie sparked some of that scrutiny.
U.S. forces killed 10 insurgents in a raid Wednesday on a suspected al Qaeda hideout in western Anbar province, the military said in a statement. In a separate battle earlier this week, U.S. troops killed 25 insurgents outside the city of Baqouba, northeast of Baghdad, the military said.
Three suicide car bombers hit police checkpoints in Baghdad and the western cities of Ramadi and Habbaniyah, killing nine policemen and two civilians. A car bomb hit a popular restaurant outside the northern town of Beiji on the highway to Baghdad, killing three civilians and wounding 12 people.
In northern Iraq, police found the bodies of two members of the minority Yazidi religious sect who had been reported kidnapped three days earlier in the city of Mosul, police said. The bullet-riddled body of an abducted police colonel, a Sunni Kurd, was found in Baghdad.