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  Tuesday, February 7, 2023
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Osama bin Laden has apparently urged Iraqis to boycott U.S.-backed elections
Osama bin Laden has apparently urged Iraqis to boycott U.S.-backed elections, endorsing Sunni Muslim insurgents on the day a senior Shi'ite leader survived a car bombing and the top Sunni party pulled out of next month's vote. Publicly hailing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi for the first time, an audiotape that purported to be from bin Laden gave an al Qaeda endorsement on Monday to bombings and kidnappings by the Jordanian Islamist who is Washington's most wanted man in Iraq. "Anyone who takes part in this election consciously and willingly is an infidel," said the tape broadcast on Al Jazeera. "I consider the prince of the mujahideen, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi a true soldier of God," it said. "He is the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq and everybody should follow him and obey him, reports SwissInfo. According to the Daily Times, a suicide car bomber hit one of the biggest Shiite Muslim parties running in elections next month, killing 13 people but missing its leader. The bomb exploded outside the Baghdad head office of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), a party set up in exile in Iran to oppose Saddam Hussein and one of the strongest groups contesting the January 30 election. Victims of the bombing, in which police said about 50 people were wounded, included several receptionists and guards at SCIRI-s headquarters. None of the party leadership was hurt. The office is also home to party leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, who was there at the time. He called it an assassination attempt but said SCIRI-s thousands-strong militia would not retaliate. The SCIRI leader blamed the attack on Sunni insurgents. The Bush administration is reportedly looking at ways to guarantee Sunni politicians seats in the national assembly, as well as a senior office of state. But Iraq's interim leaders know any decision to delay or skew the result could alienate leading figures among the Shia majority, including Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. "We are damned if we go ahead, and damned if we delay," said an Iraqi minister who requested anonymity. He said the government appeared to be "in a state of flux" over the timing. An aide to the ayatollah said: "[Sistani] does not want a delay in the election. The Iraqi people have been waiting for too long." He played down concerns that a Sunni boycott would deny the election legitimacy: "If some people decide not to participate then they cannot claim that the elections are illegitimate. We cannot be held hostage by the Ba'athists and the Sunni terrorists", informs the Guardian
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