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Al-Qaeda leader's diary lists woes

BAGHDAD -- On Nov. 3, U.S. soldiers raided a safe house of the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq near the northern city of Balad. No combatants were captured, but inside the house they found something valuable: a diary and will written in neat Ara...

BAGHDAD -- On Nov. 3, U.S. soldiers raided a safe house of the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq near the northern city of Balad. No combatants were captured, but inside the house they found something valuable: a diary and will written in neat Arabic script.

"I am Abu Tariq, Emir of al-Layin and al-Mashadah Sector," it began.

Over 16 pages, the al-Qaeda in Iraq official detailed the organization's demise in his sector. He once had 600 men, but now his force was down to 20 or fewer, he wrote. They had lost weapons and allies. Abu Tariq focused his anger in particular on the Sunni fighters and tribesmen who have turned against al-Qaeda in Iraq and joined the U.S.-backed Sunni Sahwa, or "Awakening," forces.

"We were mistreated, cheated and betrayed by some of our brothers," Abu Tariq wrote. "We must not have mercy on those traitors until they come back to the right side or get eliminated completely in order to achieve victory at the end."

The diary is the U.S. military's latest weapon in a concerted information campaign to undermine al-Qaeda in Iraq and its efforts to regroup and shift tactics. The movement remains strong in northern areas, and many U.S. commanders consider it the country's most immediate security threat. In recent days, U.S. officials have released seized videos showing the Sunni insurgent group training children to kidnap and kill, as well as excerpts of a 49-page letter allegedly written by another al-Qaeda leader that describes the organization as weak and beset by low morale.

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On Sunday, the military released four pages of a39-page memo written by a mid- to high-level al-Qaeda official with knowledge of the group's operations in Iraq's western Anbar province. The military cited security reasons for withholding the remainder of the document.

In the Anbar document, the author acknowledges a growing weariness among Sunni citizens of militants' presence and the U.S.-led crackdowns against them. He also expresses frustration with foreign fighters too eager to participate in suicide missions rather than continuing to fight.

"The Islamic State of Iraq is faced with an extraordinary crisis, especially in al-Anbar," the author wrote, referring to an umbrella group of insurgents led by al-Qaeda.

Rear Adm. Gregory Smith, a U.S. military spokesman, said the documents tell "narrow but compelling stories of the challenges al-Qaeda in Iraq is facing. This does not signal the end of al-Qaeda in Iraq, but it is a contemporary account of the challenges posed to terrorists from the people of Iraq."

Abu Tariq's diary provides a rare glimpse into the thoughts of an embattled al-Qaeda in Iraq leader, as well as a snapshot of an insurgent movement that is in turmoil in some parts of Iraq. It also reflects a growing conflict among Sunnis. Since October, attacks by al-Qaeda in Iraq against the Awakening fighters have doubled, said Maj. Winfield Danielson III, a U.S. military spokesman.

Not much is known about Abu Tariq. U.S. military officials said that they had no one in custody by that name and that it was most likely a pseudonym. Mansour Abed Salem, a tribal leader whose brother leads the Awakening forces in some areas north of Baghdad, described Abu Tariq as the "legal religious emir" of an area stretching from Taji, north of the capital, to south of Balad.

Awakening forces and al-Qaeda in Iraq fighters clashed in that area recently, Salem said. The Awakening forces found 20 decrees signed by Abu Tariq that sentenced to death prisoners his men had captured, including policemen and soldiers. Salem said Abu Tariq had recently fled to Mosul, an al-Qaeda in Iraq stronghold, where U.S. and Iraqi troops are preparing a major offensive.

In one entry, Abu Tariq listed the names of some tribesmen who had remained loyal to al-Qaeda in Iraq, noting that "there are very few tribe members who stood by us." He boasted that 16 of his fighters had raided the houses of Awakening fighters, "killing and injuring a lot of them" and burning some of their vehicles, "which affected their morale and resources tremendously."

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Abu Tariq devoted much of the diary to a list of remaining al-Qaeda in Iraq members in his sector and those who had betrayed his group, naming individuals, families and tribes. "My request to you is not to be negligent with the deserters/traitors at all," he wrote in an Oct. 28 entry, apparently addressing his followers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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