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Purported Saddam Tape Vows Violence

Purported Saddam Tape Vows Violence

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- A voice purported to be Saddam Hussein's aired on the Arab television station Al-Jazeera on Friday, saying he is still in Iraq and vowing more attacks on Americans.

"I am still present in Iraq along with a group of (former Iraqi) leaders," said the voice on the tape, which the voice said was recorded on June 14.

There was no immediate way to confirm the tape's authenticity, but those who know Saddam's voice said it sounded like his.

The audiotape appeared a day after Washington put a $25 million bounty on Saddam and offered $15 million for information leading to the capture of either of his sons, Odai and Qusai.

Claiming credit for armed attacks on U.S. occupation forces in Iraq, the speaker addressed Iraqis, saying, "Oh brothers and sisters, I relay to you good news: Jihad (holy war) cells and brigades have been formed."

He urged Iraqis to assist the resistance groups fighting U.S. troops.

The speaker sought to explain the quick collapse of Saddam's regime, which crumbled as American troops entered the capital in early April.

"We have sacrificed the government. But we will not sacrifice our principles or surrender," he said. "We refused to hold onto power if that meant submitting to the American threats."

The voice added that the regime preferred to give up power than become a puppet state. "They wanted to occupy us without a fight and destroy our pride."

The speaker, purporting to be Saddam, said that he is still in Iraq "among my people" along with a small group of his "companions."

Al-Jazeera's chief editor Ibrahim Hilal, contacted in Doha, Qatar, said the tape was delivered to Al-Jazeera via telephone on Friday.

"Someone called us and played back the tape for us and we recorded it. It ran for over 20 minutes, but only 10 minutes are newsworthy. We don't know the source, or where the call came from. We have no reason to doubt its authenticity," he said.

The tape was the first purported to be from Saddam since one received May 5 by a reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald, who received a 14-minute audiotape from two men in Baghdad. In that tape, the voice also claimed to be speaking from Iraq and called on citizens to oust American occupiers.

The voice on that tape noted some Iraqis had celebrated Saddam's 66th birthday on April 28.

The Arabic-language Al-Quds Al-Arabi newspaper published a letter purportedly from Saddam in late April, after the fall of Baghdad. The former dictator urged Iraqis to "rise up" against occupation.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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