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Zarqawi is dead, claims Baghdad imam

By AFP

09/16/05 "AFP" -- -- PARIS -
Al Qaeda’s leader in Iraq, Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, is dead but Washington continues to use him as a bogeyman to justify a prolonged military occupation, an Iraqi Shia cleric said in an interview published here on Friday.

Sheikh Jawad Al Kalesi, the imam of the al-Kazemiya mosque in Baghdad, told Le Monde newspaper: “I don’t think that Abu Musab Al Zarqawi exists as such. He’s simply an invention by the occupiers to divide the people.”

Kalesi claimed that Zarqawi was killed in the Kurdish northern region of Iraq at the beginning of the US-led war on the country as he was meeting with members of the Ansar Al-Islam group affiliated to Al Qaeda.

“His family in Jordan even held a ceremony after his death. Abu Musab Al Zarqawi is therefore a ploy used by the Americans, an excuse to continue the occupation. It’s a pretext so they don’t leave Iraq.”

Kalesi made the comments to Le Monde as he passed through Paris after attending an inter-religious gathering in the eastern French city of Lyon organised by the Roman Catholic Sant’Egidio Community.

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