BAGHDAD, Iraq – A speaker purporting to be Iraq's most feared terror leader declared a "fierce war" on democracy and said in an audiotape posted Sunday on the Web that the Americans were using next weekend's Iraqi elections to install the Shiites in power.
"We have declared a fierce war on this evil principle of democracy and those who follow this wrong ideology," said the speaker, who identified himself as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (search), head of the Al Qaeda (search) affiliate in Iraq. "Anyone who tries to help set up this system is part of it."
The speaker said candidates running in the Jan. 30 elections are "demi-idols" and those who vote for them "are infidels." U.S. and Iraqi officials fear insurgent attacks and have announced massive security measures to protect voters.
"You have to be careful of the enemy's plan to implement so-called democracy in your country," he added. He said the Americans have engineered the election "to make Shiites dominate the regime in Iraq. Four million Shiites were brought from Iran to take part in the elections to achieve their aim of winning" most of the positions.
Iraqis are scheduled to elect a 275-member National Assembly and provincial councils in the 18 Iraqi provinces. The new assembly will draft a permanent constitution to establish a system of power among Iraq's disparate religious and ethnic groups.
Sunni Arab insurgents have been launching attacks to try to subvert the election, fearing the loss of power to the Shiite majority. Many Sunni Arabs are expected to stay away from the polls. Shiite Muslims, who are the majority of Iraq's 26 million people, are expected to turn out in large numbers and win most of the assembly seats.
The authenticity of the tape could not be determined but the voice appeared to be that of al-Zarqawi. It was the second voice tape posted on Islamic Web sites this week purporting to be al-Zarqawi, responsible for numerous car-bombings and beheadings foreign and Iraqi hostages over the past months.