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Sunni leader resurfaces in recording

By STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 10, 2009

A suspected Sunni insurgent leader whom Iraqi forces claimed to have captured earlier this year is said to be the source of an audio recording posted online that calls for attacks on U.S. forces and recruits fighters back to the side of "the real jihadists," according to a report in The New York Times.

Abu Omar al-Baghdadi is the reputed leader of the Islamic State of Iraq.

The Iraqi government claimed in April that al-Baghdadi had been captured, however no proof was offered and American officials never confirmed the report.

U.S. leaders have voiced the suspicion that al-Baghdadi is a fictional character conjured up to give an Iraqi face to the leadership of al-Qaida in Iraq, the Times noted.

The voice on the tape called for striking out against the U.S. military despite the recent pullback from Iraqi cities.

"Even if they are in one spot in the Iraqi desert, away from all forms of life, every Muslim must fight them until they are kicked out of that spot," the audio statement said, according to the Times.

The speaker also seemed to acknowledge that the insurgency has lost momentum in recent years and openly recruited members, according to the times.

"Come back to the real jihadists," he said.

"We are not going to hurt you. We are friends. We have always wished you a great life and to go to heaven after you die."

The paper said it was not possible to confirm the authenticity of the statement, posted on a site popular with jihadists, and an Iraqi government spokesman did not return a call seeking comment.