Al-Qaeda's Iraq chief threatened on Friday in an audio message posted on the Internet that the terror network will "blow up the White House."
"We announce today the end of a phase of the jihad [holy war] and the start of a new one ... to usher in the project of an Islamic caliphate and restore Islam's glory," Abu Hamza al-Muhajer said in the message.
"We swear we will not rest from our jihad ... before blowing up the filthiest house, dubbed the White House," in the course of establishing the caliphate which began with the proclamation of an Islamic state in Iraq, he said.
The authenticity of the message could not be independently confirmed.
"The location chosen by your mujahidin brethren to set up their state ... is but a stepping stone for the leap," Muhajer said, referring to the "Islamic state of Iraq" proclaimed last month.
An alliance of Sunni insurgents headed by the Iraq branch of al-Qaeda announced the creation of an independent Islamic emirate in Iraq in a video posted on the Internet on Oct.15, after parliament in Baghdad approved a federal Constitution for the war-ravaged country.
In Friday's message, Muhajer said he had mobilized 12,000 fighters for the Islamic state and was grooming 10,000 more.
"I tell the commander of the faithful, the honorable Sheikh Abu Omar al-Baghdadi: I have put 12,000 al-Qaeda fighters at the disposal of the Islamic state of Iraq," Muhajer said, pledging allegiance to the state's emir.
The al-Qaeda chief appealed to major Iraqi Sunni insurgent groups, notably the Army of Ansar al-Sunna, the Islamic Army of Iraq and the Mujahedeen's Army, to endorse the self-styled state and pledge allegiance to its emir.
Muhajer slammed US President George W. Bush, gloated over his Republican party's defeat in mid-term elections widely attributed to US involvement in Iraq and said US forces occupying the country were preparing to cut and run.
"The enemy is now teetering under the blows of the mujahedeen... and preparing to pack up and flee," he said.
"I thank the most stupid and worst president America -- the country of slaves and drugs -- has ever had for giving us this great historic opportunity," said the voice.
"The American people have taken the first step on the right path in order to get out of their impasse and have started to realize the treachery of their president and his subordination to Israel, voting for a measure of reason in the latest elections," Muhajer said.
"I tell [Bush]: don't hurry to flee like your defense minister [Donald Rumsfeld, who resigned on Wednesday]. We have still not quenched our thirst for your blood," he said.
Muhajer also charged that Bush's policies had enabled Shiite Iran to spread its influence in Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries.
Meanwhile a regional office of the US embassy in Hilla was hit by up to 10 rockets, Iraqi police in the town said yesterday.
A US spokesman said no embassy personnel were injured. The US military had no immediate comment on the report.
Iraqi police Captain Muthanna al-Mamouri said police had found a rocket launcher used to fire 10 rockets from around 5km north of the US embassy compound in central Hilla, south of Baghdad in the capital of Babil Province.
The compound is housed in a hotel on the banks of a river in the center of town and is guarded by civilian contractors as well as US military. Mamouri said police had seen smoke rising from the compound but he had no information on casualties.
"No State Department personnel were injured," said Mike McClellan of the US embassy, adding that he had no information on the specific details of the attack.
US bases and other sites associated with the US-led forces in Iraq, such as the international Green Zone in Baghdad, frequently come under attack from mortars and rockets, usually without causing casualties.
Fired from several kilometres away, the mortars and rockets are usually not very accurate.
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