ALGIERS, Algeria, May 2 (UPI) -- Algeria's most feared militant Islamic group has pleaded for the help of al-Qaida's chief in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, following painful setbacks by the army.
The Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, led by Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud Abdel Malek, sent a letter to Zarqawi hailing his activities in fighting the enemies of Islam and declaring Taliban leader Mullah Omar as the "caliphate of Muslims."
The letter urged Zarqawi to "support brothers in Algerian jihad groups by making sermons that call for defeating the tyrants."
The letter stressed that the jihad movement in Algeria "has been going through difficult phases for the past years, but the crisis got worse in the last two years following the killing of Salafi movement leader Abu Ibrahim, which caused an earthquake that could have eliminated the jihad trend altogether if it wasn't for the commitment of the mujahideen."
Abu Ibrahim, who succeeded GSPC founder Hassan Hattab, was killed two years ago in a major operation by the army against the movement which counts at present 700 gunmen in its ranks.
The letter blamed the weakness of the jihad trend on "conspiracies weaved against the Salafi movement in Algeria," in reference to the Peace and National Reconciliation Pact proposed by President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and approved by 97 percent of Algerians in a nationwide referendum.
Government forces have stepped up a crackdown on the GSPC which appears to be living its last days after many of its field commanders and members abandoned armed activity and accepted Bouteflika's peace pact for ending the country's crisis.
Founder Hassan Hattab, who abandoned the group a few years ago, is highly critical of its new leaders, further weakening the movement.
In a recent statement Hattab disavowed himself from the "remnants of the armed Islamic movement who rejected national reconciliation."
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