Published August 02, 2004
WASHINGTON – Jordanian terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (search), believed responsible for a series of attacks, kidnappings and beheadings in Iraq, has been trying to communicate with Al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden, a senior defense official tells FOX News.
Within the past several days, the anonymous defense official said, a courier had been intercepted inside Iraq bearing a message from Zarqawi to bin Laden. The official would not reveal the contents of the message or exactly when and where its bearer had been found.
Zarqawi's Tawhid and Jihad (search) (Monotheism and Holy War) militant group has claimed to have abducted several foreigners in Iraq in the past few months, and to have killed some of them, including American independent contractor Nicholas Berg (search). American officials believe Zarqawi himself held the knife that decapitated Berg.
The Jordanian has also claimed responsibility for large-scale terrorist attacks in Iraq, including the truck bombings of the U.N. compound in August 2003.
Zarqawi, from a prominent Jordanian Bedouin tribe, was one of thousands of Arabs who flocked to Afghanistan in the 1980s to fight Soviet troops. In Afghanistan, he almost certainly met Usama bin Laden, but his relationship to Al Qaeda is unclear.
American intelligence once thought Zarqawi took orders from bin Laden and the Al Qaeda leadership, but recent statements by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and others indicate that the U.S. now considers Zarqawi and his organization to be loosely allied with, and sometimes a rival to, Al Qaeda.
Before the American and British invasion in March 2003, Zarqawi was thought to be allied with Ansar al-Islam (search), a small, mostly Kurdish, Islamic militant group operating in Iraqi Kurdistan along the Iranian border.
A Los Angeles Times story on Aug. 1 cited U.S.and French intelligence sources as saying Zarqawi and members of both Ansar al-Islam and Al Qaeda had benefited from a close relationship with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (search), a hard-line paramilitary force that operates outside of the control of the elected Iranian government.
Earlier this year, a letter purported to be from Zarqawi to the Al Qaeda leadership in Pakistan was intercepted, in which the Jordanian pleaded with his fellow Islamic militants for money to combat U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq.
FOX News' Ian McCaleb, Bret Baier and Paul Wagenseil contributed to this report.