New Bin Laden Tape Calls on Iraqis to Boycott Elections

The Arabic-language satellite television channel al-Jazeera said Monday it had received a new audiotape in which Al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden appeared to call on Iraqis to boycott the upcoming elections.

Al-Jazeera had not yet broadcast the audiotape, but said the voice proclaimed Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (search) as his deputy in Iraq.

Al-Zarqawi, at one time seen as a potential rival to bin Laden for the leadership of the international jihad movement, declared his allegiance to the former Saudi citizen several months ago and renamed his Monotheism and Holy War (search) group "Al Qaeda in Iraq."

An Al-Jazeera announcer said the speaker on the tape also called for attacking pipelines, planting mines and killing people who work for the occupation forces and indirectly called for financing Al Qaeda's operations in Iraq, which he said cost about 200,000 euro (US$272,280) a week.

Reuters reported that bin Laden declared any Iraqis who voted in the Jan. 30 elections would be regarded as infidels.

Earlier Monday, a Baghdad car bomb killed 15 people in an apparent attempt to kill a prominent Shiite Muslim politician, and the main grouping of Sunni Muslim political parties said it would sit out the elections.

Al Qaeda is an extremist Sunni Muslim group that regards Shiites as apostates, though there is evidence it has contacts with Shiite entities such as Lebanese Hezbollah (search) and Iran's Revolutionary Guards.

Al-Zarqawi's group is believed responsible for numerous car bombings and beheadings of foreign hostages in Iraq. The United States has placed $25 million bounties on the heads of both bin Laden and al-Zarqawi.

This was the second tape by bin Laden to surface this month.

An audiotape posted on an Islamic Web site Dec. 16 had a man identified as Usama bin Laden praising militants who attacked a U.S. consulate in Saudi Arabia earlier this month and calling on militants to stop the flow of oil to the West.

Bin Laden, believed hiding in the mountains along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, before that reached out to his followers in October, with a videotape aired on Al-Jazeera just before the U.S. presidential elections.

In that statement, he for the first time clearly took responsibility for the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States and said America could avoid another such strike if it stopped threatening the security of Muslims.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.