23 January 2005 -- Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, who is alleged to have ties to Al-Qaeda, is reported as saying in a new message that he has declared war on the crucial 30 January national elections in Iraq.
An audiotape posted on an Islamist website today and purported to come from al -Zarqawi says the aim of the elections is to bring Iraq under the rule of "infidel" Shia Muslims.
Shiite Muslims, who form a majority in Iraq, are poised to win the elections and Sunni insurgents have intensified their attacks to disrupt the voting.
Iraqi authorities have announced sweeping security measures that will nearly seal off Iraq from the outside world in a bid to protect the national elections from attacks. Interim Interior Minister Falah al-Naqib says there will be night-time curfews, a ban on travel between provinces, and a ban on civilians carrying weapons. Iraq's borders will be closed.
Also today, the U.S. military announced that a U.S. soldier was killed in a firefight with rebels in the northern city of Mosul yesterday. The death raises the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq to 1,366 since the March 2003 invasion.
(AFP/Reuters)[For news, background, and analysis on Iraq's historic 30 January elections, see RFE/RL's webpage "Iraq Votes 2005".]