BAGHDAD -- Tawhid and Jihad, Iraq's most feared militant group led by terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, declared its allegiance to Osama bin Laden yesterday, saying it had agreed with Al Qaeda over strategy and the need for unity against ''the enemies of Islam."
The declaration, which began with a Koranic verse encouraging Muslim unity, said Zarqawi considered bin Laden ''the best leader for Islam's armies against all infidels and apostates." It said the two had been in communication eight months ago and ''viewpoints were exchanged" before the dialogue was interrupted.
''God soon blessed us with a resumption in communication, and the dignified brothers in Al Qaeda understood the strategy of Tawhid and Jihad," the statement said.
The statement, whose authenticity could not be confirmed, affirmed the ''allegiance of Tawhid and Jihad's leadership and soldiers to the chief of all fighters, Osama bin Laden." It said the announcement had been timed for the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan when ''Muslims need more than ever to stick together in the face of the religion's enemies."
''It's good tidings for our nation . . . to spite the infidels and frighten the enemies of Islam."
The statement also endorsed bin Laden's goal to ''expel the infidels from the Arabian peninsula."
Zarqawi's declaration appeared two days after the US government formally declared Tawhid and Jihad a terrorist organization. The listing imposes several restrictions on the group, including a ban on travel to the United States and a freeze on its assets in US banks.