Terrorist's Letter Snagged By U.S.

ByABC News
October 7, 2005, 9:07 AM

Oct. 7, 2005 — -- A letter from Ayman al-Zawahiri, believed to be the No. 2 leader of al Qaeda, to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, thought to be al Qaeda's chief in Iraq, giving him pointers on ways to chase the United States out of Iraq and have Islam triumph in the region, has been obtained by U.S. officials.

The 6,000-word letter with a July date was recently intercepted and made public only after the government learned that the press was going to reveal its existence, said Department of Defense spokesman Bryan Whitman.

In the letter, defense officials said, Zawahiri urged Zarqawi to avoid alienating the masses they would need to govern after the caliphate is established. Zawahiri purportedly urges Zarqawi to stop killing Shiites, to avoid bombing mosques and to otherwise avoid needlessly killing non-combatant Muslims.

Whitman said Zawahiri urged Zarqawi to send money. He said the letter showed Zawahiri was resigned to defeat in Afghanistan, and that he acknowledged lines of communication had been severely disrupted.

The letter "informed" very public presentations over the past week from top U.S. civilian and military officials, including President Bush's speech on Thursday, Whitman said.

U.S. government officials asked ABC News earlier this week to hold off on reporting the existence of this letter to avoid jeopardizing intelligence-gathering "sources and methods" that could risk the lives of Americans. ABC News reporters were told the White House would decide when or if to sanction release of the information.

The decision was made to release the letter after the president's speech on Iraq on Thursday.