Al-Zarqawi alive and seeking partners: report

THE Jordanian Islamist militant and most-wanted man in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, is alive, well and seeking alliances among Sunni opponents of US-led forces in Iraq, new reports say.

Citing the leader of a Sunni resistance group who said he recently spent time with Zarqawi, the reports said the insurgent leader wore a suicide belt at all times - even when asleep.

“He told me: ‘I would rather blow myself up and die as a martyr - and kill a few Americans along the way - than be humiliated by them,” Sheikh Abu Omar al-Ansari, leader of the Jeish al Taiifa al Mansoura (Army of the Victorious Sect) group, was quoted as saying.

Zarqawi, believed to have been behind several videotaped beheadings of foreign hostages in Iraq, has a $25 million (€20.6m) bounty on his head - the same as that for the killing or capture of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

Although the Sunday Times report is based on a third-hand account of the meeting as the information was passed on from Ansari through an intermediary, it contains rare details.

It said Ansari’s contact with Zarqawi was during a two-day meeting to negotiate co-operation between al-Qaida and opposition groups within Iraq.

US officials have said in the past that Zarqawi was believed to have lost a leg. But Ansari was quoted as saying he had both legs.

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