BAGHDAD, Iraq – The U.S. military on Wednesday doubled its bounty for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (search), an Al Qaeda-linked Jordanian who officials suspect has been trying to spark an Iraqi civil war.
American leaders believe al-Zarqawi wrote a letter they intercepted telling Al Qaeda leaders he and fellow Sunni Muslim fundamentalists were in a "race against time" to wreck American plans to hand over sovereignty to Iraqis on June 30.
To achieve these goals, said the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press, Sunni Arab militants should accelerate their campaign by kidnapping U.S. soldiers and attacking Iraqi Kurds, the letter says.
The document vows to target "symbols" of the Kurdish community and to increase attacks on U.S. troops, policemen and "collaborators" — Iraqis who work with the U.S.-led coalition.
American officials think al-Zarqawi was probably behind the Feb. 1 double attack on Kurdish political parties in Irbil, in which explosive-strapped bombers killed 109 people celebrating the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha (search).
On Tuesday and Wednesday, vehicle bombings killed up to 99 people in Iskandariyah (search) and Baghdad. Both attacks targeted Iraqis working with the coalition.
"If I could draw on a relationship to his memo and also these attacks ... Yes, they are related," Maj. Gen. Charles H. Swannack Jr., commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, said Wednesday.
The 11-page letter, found on a computer disk in the possession of a suspected Al Qaeda courier, is written in flowery Arabic prose and addressed to "our two kind brothers," also referred to as the "men in the mountains."
It is believed to have been intended for senior Al Qaeda leaders, likely spiritual leader Usama bin Laden and tactical leader Ayman al-Zawahri, who are believed to be hiding in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan or western Pakistan.
The letter's author said insurgents must act quickly to prevent the handover of power to Iraqi police and military forces, since native Iraqis would be less willing to attack them.
"The noose is beginning to tighten around the necks of the mujahedeen, and the future is frightening with the future deployment of more troops and police," he wrote.
"Our hope is for the pace of our work to accelerate, to form brigades and battalions that have experience and perseverance and to wait for zero hour, when we begin to appear in public and control the land at night and, God willing, also during the day."
The letter said that if the insurgency fails to prevent the handover of sovereignty, "then there will be no choice but to pack our bags and move to another land where we can once again carry our banner."
The writer complains that Iraqi insurgents battling the Americans have not cooperated well with foreign fighters, and also outlines a strategy to attack Shiites in order to spark a sectarian war with Sunni Muslims. The Sunni extremists in Al Qaeda consider Shiites little better than heretics.
The writer laments that Iraqi fighters are hesitant to carry out suicide attacks and instead restrict themselves to planting explosives and firing rockets.
Some Iraqi fighters "brag among themselves that none of them had been killed or captured. We have repeatedly told them that safety and victory don't go together."
The letter calls Americans "the most cowardly of God's creatures," saying, "we ask God to enable us to get at them, either through killing them or capturing them to swap them for our sheiks and brothers in detention."
But it says the "only solution" is to repeatedly attack the Shiites to prompt them into retaliating against Sunnis.
The author rails against Kurds and Shiites, saying Kurdish leaders have turned northern Iraq into a "Trojan horse for Israelis" and that Shiites are "heretics" aiming to create a super-state extending from Iran to eastern Saudi Arabia.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.