Al Qaeda Threatens Australia, Italy on Iraq

An online statement by a group representing itself as al-Qaeda's European branch threatened on Saturday to turn Australia into "pools of blood" if it doesn't withdraw its troops from Iraq (search).

It was the second statement in a week by the Tawhid Islamic Group (search), a previously unknown group which on Wednesday threatened attacks in Bulgaria and Poland if their troops remained in Iraq.

"We call upon you to leave Iraq before your country turns to pools of blood," the statement warned the Australian government.

"We will shake the earth under your feet as we did in Indonesia, and lines of car bombs will not cease, God willing," the statement said, referring to the 2002 Bali bombing that killed 202 people, many of them Australian tourists.

The al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah was blamed for that attack.

The Tawhid statement also warned Italy to comply with an earlier warning.

"We advise you to accept our offer and if you don't, you will see the lines of cars laden with explosives hit your towns and turn your nights to mornings, God willing. We swear you will see hell with your eyes," the Tawhid statement said.

The statement did not elaborate on what offer it was referring to, but earlier this month, the al-Qaeda-linked Brigades of Abu Hafs al-Masri (search) that had threatened a massive strike unless Premier Silvio Berlusconi -- a staunch supporter of President Bush -- was removed from office.

Saturday's statement appeared on an Islamic Web site known as a clearing house for al-Qaeda and groups linked to the terror network. The group identified itself as "al-Qaeda in Europe." The authenticity of the statement and the group could not be verified.

The statement said Australia should follow the model of the Philippines and Spain, which have already pulled their troops out of Iraq.

"It is the right path which will ensure you safe life and security," it said.

"You came to our lands to loot its wealth and God willing we will move the battle to your country as you did to our countries, not only in Australia, but all Islamic and Arab countries," the statement read.

Australia has nearly 900 troops in and around Iraq.

Australia Prime Minister John Howard Howard's decision last year to send 2,000 troops to Iraq to join U.S. and British forces in the invasion sparked the biggest peace protests in Australia since the Vietnam War.

While Italy has said it will ignore the threats, the Philippines last week gave in to the demands of militants holding a Filipino truck driver hostage and withdrew its 51-troop contingent from Iraq. Spain pulled its troops out of the U.S.-led multinational force after devastating train bombings in Madrid in March.

Australia's foreign minister blamed Spain and the Philippines for the latest threats.

"Unfortunately these actions have encouraged terrorists to continue these threats, so now we are subjected, as the Italians are and the Poles and the Bulgarians from this particular group, to further threats," Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Sunday in comments to Nine Network television.

"You have to stand up to these people, because if you don't you empower them," Downer said.

On Wednesday, Tawhid Islamic Group issued its first statement, in which it threatened Poland and Bulgaria of terrorist attacks if the two countries didn't withdraw from Iraq.

Both European nations said they will not give in to terrorism.

Bulgaria has 480-strong infantry battalion in Iraq; Poland's 2,400 troops will be cut to between 1,000 and 1,500 next January.