[FOUNTAIN]Terror leader shot to the top in infamyA gleaming knife and a mediocre video camera were all Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi needed. It took little time or money for the 37-year-old terrorist leader to become as notorious as Osama bin Laden.
He first came to international attention in October 2002, when he claimed to have masterminded the murder of an American in the Jordanian capital of Aman. Washington has put a $5 million bounty on his head. In January 2004, the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency found a 17-page memo in Iraq. “Allah the exalted has honored us with good harm to the enemy. Praise be to Allah, I have completed 25 up to now. What is coming will be more, Allah willing.” Washington raised the bounty for the man to $10 million; the memo was believed to be a letter from him to Osama bin Laden.
In May 2004, a shocking video image of the beheading of Nick Berg was posted on the Web. The masked man who carried out the killing was Al Zarqawi, reading a statement and brandishing a knife. Soon, the United States raised the bounty to $25 million. After seventeen months, the U.S. bounty for the terrorist leader has matched that of bin Laden. The same sum was offered for Saddam Hussein.
Religion and war nurtured Al Zarqawi; he had an ordinary beginning. He was born in Jordan, the son of a poor Bedouin family and was raised a faithful Muslim. In 1989, he went to Afghanistan to fight against the invasion by the Soviet Union. In 1992, he returned to Jordan and was arrested for having plotted a rebellion to oust the monarchy and establish an Islamic state. Upon his release in 1999, he prepared a terrorist attack on American tourists. When the authorities discovered his plan, he fled to Afghanistan and set up a terrorist training camp. After the war in Iraq, he settled in Fallujah, the stronghold of the Iraqi insurgency.
The keys to al Zarqawi’s strategy are outrageous acts of barbarity and videotapes to broadcast the horror to the world. This week, he decapitated two Americans. Other militant groups in Iraq began to imitate his style and stage beheadings. In the early days of the campaign against Iraq, the United States proudly advocated the concept of “shock and awe.” Now, “shock and awe” has become a trademark of al Zarqawi.
In the bazaars of Iraq, the beheading videotapes are selling better than pornography.
by Oh Byung-sang
The writer is the JoongAng Ilbo’s London correspondent.