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Al-Qaida militants in Iraq made an online appeal Tuesday for new fundraising ideas


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(AP) CAIRO — Al-Qaida militants in Iraq made an online appeal Tuesday for new fundraising ideas, saying they are in dire need of money to help thousands of widows and children of slain fighters.

Insurgents of the Islamic State of Iraq — an umbrella group for Sunni militants— have funded their operations in the past by robbing jewelry stores, banks and offices where the government pays out monthly salaries. But the group has seen its main source of money, funding from abroad, dry up, leaving the group strapped for cash.

In an Arabic statement posted on al-Qaida in Iraq's online forum, website administrator Seif Saad lamented the state of the group's finances and launched an urgent appeal for money to "feed the widows and the orphans" of mujahedeen, or holy warriors.

"A few days ago a brother was martyred, leaving behind a wife and children. There is no need to explain how we were running here and there to collect money for their minimum requirements of life," wrote Saad.

Among the new ideas to raise funds, Saad suggested insurgents find a way to extort money from foreign oil, construction, transport and cell phone companies, as well as international media agencies. If the companies refused to pay, insurgents would disrupt their operations. He did not elaborate.

He also said businessmen and wealthy families should be forced to pay annual zakat, or charity, which Islam stipulates should be roughly two percent of assets, and called for imposing fines on wealthy Shiites in Iraq "who receive aid from America and the West and steal the country's oil revenues."

Mohamed Abdel-Hadi, who identified himself online another administrator for the website, dismissed the idea of taking money from foreign companies, but said he strongly supports fining Shiites.

"All the Shiites, including merchants or government officials, are infidels and confiscating their money is part of jihad," he wrote.

A visitor on the website posted a comment suggesting militants kidnap company executives in return for hefty ransoms that could finance a prolonged insurgency.

Another contributor advised recruiting specialized Internet hackers to transfer money from U.S. banks to trusted people. The contributor did not elaborate.

The Islamic State of Iraq claimed responsibility for last year's heists of the Central Bank of Iraq and a state-run investment center.

The global arm of al-Qaida has itself appealed for funds in the past. One request was made by al-Qaida's Ayman al-Zawahri, who became the leader of the group after the death of Osama bin Laden.

Last year, al-Qaida's top commander in Afghanistan, Mustafa Abu al-Yazeed, also appealed for more funding, saying militants battling NATO forces were hampered by a lack of money and equipment.

Osama bin Laden, who was killed by U.S. forces in Pakistan in May, also appealed for more funds in some of his statement, urging businessmen to direct their alms to al-Qaida.

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