Baghdad, Iraq — The suspected mastermind of beheadings and bombings threatened to assassinate Iraq's prime minister a week before the new government takes power. Insurgents today launched simultaneous attacks on police stations in the western Iraqi city of Ramadi, killing seven people and wounding 13, officials said.
The attacks on the police stations came a day after U.S. officials said that an airstrike killed 20 followers of the al-Qaida-linked militant, Jordanian-born militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. There was no immediate indication they were connected.
The gunmen used rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons to attack the stations in the insurgent stronghold 60 miles west of Baghdad, police said.
"We were inside the al-Qataneh police station and suddenly a very heavy explosion happened," said 1st Lt. Ahmed Sami.
Militants focused their anger on Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and his government -- the latest sign that the campaign of insurgent violence against the U.S. occupation is unlikely to end with the June 30 handover of power.
Allawi brushed off the threats, saying al-Zarqawi was "just a criminal who must be captured and tried."
The threat against his life came in an audiotape purportedly made by al-Zarqawi, found Wednesday on an Islamic Web site. The message also denounced Allawi's government as a tool of the "infidel foreigner."
Al-Zarqawi's group claimed responsibility for the beheading of American hostage Nicholas Berg last month and Kim Sun-il, a South Korean whose decapitated body was found Tuesday.
Hours after Kim's body was found, the U.S. military launched its second attack against al-Zarqawi in three days, with an airstrike on a suspected hideout in Fallujah late Tuesday.
A coalition military official said 20 foreign fighters and terrorists were believed to have been killed in the strike against a house used by al-Zarqawi's group.
Fallujah residents said the strike hit a parking lot, killing three people and wounding nine, according to hospital officials.
The al-Zarqawi recording warned Allawi that he had already survived "traps that we made for you" but vowed that the group would continue planning his assassination "until we make you drink from the same glass as Izzadine Saleem," the Governing Council president killed by a car bomb last month.
There was no way to authenticate the recording, but the voice sounded like al-Zarqawi, whose Tawhid and Jihad movement has been blamed for many of the bombings and assassinations that have killed hundreds of people, most of them Iraqis, in recent months.
The CIA was reviewing the tape.
In an interview Wednesday with the Italian newspaper Il Giornale, Allawi dismissed al-Zarqawi as a criminal who would be caught and punished.
"Abu Musab al-Zarqawi doesn't threaten just me, but the entire country," Allawi told the newspaper, which released a copy of the interview Wednesday night.
"He has killed hundreds of Iraqis, has sown disorder and fear," Allawi was quoted as saying. "We are used to threats and we know how to deal with them and how to win."