BEIRUT, Lebanon – A self-styled Shiite Muslim insurgent group made its public debut in a videotape aired Sunday by a Lebanese TV station, pledging to fight U.S., UK and other coalition forces but to spare Iraqi civilians and soldiers.
"We have been patient enough and we have given the political process a chance," the Islamic Resistance in Iraq — Abbas Brigades said in a statement.
It was the first public appearance by a Shiite group claiming a role in an insurgency that has been dominated by Sunni Arabs, who lost the power and privilege they had under Saddam's regime to the majority Shiite Arabs and the minority Sunni Kurds.
The statement could not be independently authenticated. But emergence of a Shiite group linked to the insurgency could bode ill for security, especially in Shiite areas of southern Iraq which have been relatively quiet.
The statement, read by a TV announcer, said the Americans came to Iraq under the pretext of overthrowing Saddam Hussein's government but are now "building bases, looting our resources, interfering in everything, sowing sectarian sedition between Sunnis and Shiites, Arabs and Kurds."
"The occupation has become the cause of chaos, destruction, loss of resources and bloodletting," the statement said.
The group said it aims to rid Iraq of foreign occupation, preserve its territorial unity. It also pledged to limit its attacks to foreign forces.
"We assure our people that we will only fight the foreign occupier, the Americans, the British and their allies who have occupied our country, looted our resources and spilled out blood," the statement said.
As for Iraqis, the statement added, they will be spared.
"Our purpose is to fight the foreign forces," it said. "We assure them (Iraqis) that operations against civilians are great transgressions. Members of the Iraqi army, police and Iraqi security agencies are our sons, brothers and beloved. They are our hope for the future to preserve the land of Iraq and its security. So are state employees."
The station, New TV, said it received the tape along with the statement exclusively. The three-minute videorecording showed five separate attacks that appeared to show military vehicles and tanks similar to ones used by coalition forces being blown up by roadside bombs.
It also showed in one attack men in Iraqi police uniforms and soldiers wearing beige camouflage fatigues, similar to those worn by coalition troops, dragging a wounded soldier after a bombing and giving him first aid before an armored vehicle arrived to pick him up.
The statement said the footage was from recent operations, but it was impossible to determine when or where it was taken.
Southern Iraq has seen an increase in insurgent attacks in recent months.
Songs accompanying the footage included one that said "I am a Shiite, an Iraqi, an Arab ... I do not accept a truce, I don't compromise."
The name Abbas refers to the half brother of Hussein, who Shiites venerate.
Appearing on the corner of the footage is a palm of a hand, a Shiite symbol, and a picture of what appeared to be one of Iraq's Shiite shrines, a golden-domed mosque with a red flag fluttering atop.