CAIRO, Egypt – The successor to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the former leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, vowed revenge in an Internet posting on Tuesday as another Web statement claimed that the U.S. airstrike that killed Zarqawi was just a stroke of luck.
Zarqawi's successor, reported on Monday to be Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, said in his first Internet posting to expect horrific attacks "in the coming days."
Zarqawi died Wednesday in a U.S. airstrike on a safehouse in Baqouba, north of Baghdad.
"You crusaders, what will happen in the coming days is something that will turn your children's hair white — battles that will reveal the falsehood of [your] might, the weakness of your soldiers and your lies," the statement said.
The statement appeared on a Web site that frequently posts militant messages, but its authenticity could not be verified.
"Don't be too happy about killing our sheik Abu Musab [al-Zarqawi], God bless his soul, because he has left lions behind him," al-Muhajer said.
"We are going to continue what our sheik Musab ... started," he said, adding that "holy warriors" in Iraq were "stronger than ever."
The statement identified Al Qaeda in Iraq's main targets as U.S.-led troops, Shiites and Sunni collaborators.
"It's no secret the ferociousness of the battle that is going on between the soldiers of right and the soldiers of wrong — the crusaders, the rejectionists [Shiites] and apostates in Iraq," it said.
"The holy fighters have made the enemy taste the bitterness of defeat and humiliation. With God's permission, your sons have reached the decisive moment," the statement said.
In the other Web posting, the statement from the Mujahedeen Shura Council, or Consultative Council of Holy Warriors, was an attempt to discredit reports from the U.S. and Iraqi authorities that Zarqawi was known to be meeting key advisers at a house in a grove of palm trees north of Baghdad when U.S. fighter-bombers blasted the building last Wednesday evening.
The council includes Al Qaeda in Iraq, the terror group that Zarqawi led.
The U.S. military has said that an informant in Zarqawi's network had identified his spiritual adviser, who unwittingly led the Americans to the house near Baqouba where the meeting took place. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has said Iraqis living in the Baqouba area had helped in the search.
"The crusaders knew nothing," the Shura Council said in the statement. "They were surprised by the presence of the sheik [Zarqawi], God bless him, when they arrived at the site of the strike."
"It was just a matter of fate, and the house [where Zarqawi was] was struck just like the other houses in the area," according to the Web statement posted Tuesday in the name of the umbrella group for Iraqi insurgents.
It was not possible to verify the authenticity of the statement, but it appeared on an Islamic Web site known for carrying messages from Mujahedeen Shura Council. In recent months, most statements issued by Al Qaeda in Iraq have been issued by the council, including Monday's announcement of a successor to Zarqawi.
The Tuesday statement said the Americans were lying when they claimed to have received information from an informant.
"If the crusaders knew of the presence of the sheik before the raid, why didn't they surround the house and detain him," the statement asked, adding that it would have been a "victory for the American propaganda machine" to have captured Zarqawi alive.
The U.S. military has said that a pair of F-16 planes on patrol were ordered to attack the house as the fastest way of reaching a "time sensitive" target.
The Web statement claimed that one of Zarqawi bodyguards rushed to the house afterward and found Zarqawi in the debris mumbling, "No God but Allah, Muhammad is the Prophet of Allah" — the testimony that a devout Muslim is obliged to make before death.
The statement also denied the reports, from both the U.S. military and the Iraqi government, that it was the Iraqi police who arrived first at the site of the airstrike. The Mujahedeen Council claimed the U.S. forces arrived first.
Apart from Zarqawi, the attack killed five other people, including Zarqawi's spiritual adviser, Sheik Abdul-Rahman.
"We want to reassure our families that [Zarqawi's death] was just a matter of fate, and that your brothers in the Mujahedeen Shura Council are continuing their war, with God's help, and fighting the enemies of God," the statement said.