WASHINGTON - The masked thug claiming to have killed Nick Berg identified
himself yesterday as Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a terrorist who is beginning to rival
Osama Bin Laden on the most-wanted list.
The Jordanian fanatic is believed to be behind the worst suicide bombings in
Iraq and some intelligence sources fear he is plotting to use a weapon of mass
"He's flat-damn-dangerous," one U.S. counterterrorism official told the Daily
News recently. "I have no doubt that he is, and has been, working with Al Qaeda
soldiers to construct a WMD device."
The official said Zarqawi "would prefer a U.S. or U.K. target, but I suspect
he's becoming unfussy."
The U.S. has put a $10 million bounty on Zarqawi, dead or alive.
Although frequently described as being linked to Bin Laden, the official
admitted it's not clear if Zarqawi is "inside" the Al Qaeda terror network. Last
week, however, a new audiotape from Bin Laden cited Zarqawi for the first time.
It is also not certain whether the masked killer in the grisly film released
yesterday really is Zarqawi.
Iraqi-born terror expert Rita Katz of the SITE Institute said she cannot
confirm that it's Zarqawi because the knife-wielding speaker's Arabic accent was
muffled by his hood. The CIA was still studying the tape.
There is much confusion around Zarqawi.
He is frequently described as having had his leg amputated in Baghdad shortly
before the Iraq war, but later intelligence sources said that information may
have been wrong.
He was also credited with writing a letter to Bin Laden asking Al Qaeda for
support in starting a war between Sunni and Shiite Muslims to undermine
stability in Iraq. There are now doubts he is the author of the letter.