Al Qaeda, the Comedy:
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is shown wearing American tennis shoes and unable to operate his automatic rifle in video released Thursday by the U.S. military as part of a propaganda war aimed at undercutting the image of the terror leader.
The U.S. command showed the footage to reporters at a time when it is stepping up operations against al-Qaida in Iraq and making overtures to other Sunni groups. The Americans hope to isolate religious extremists from insurgents they believe are more likely to cut a deal to end the war.
The clips were part of a longer video that U.S. troops seized in a raid last month. Al-Qaida in Iraq militants posted an edited version of the same video on the Internet April 25 _ but without the embarrassing segments.
....the previously unseen footage showed a smiling al-Qaida leader first firing single shots from a U.S.-made M-249 light machine gun. A frown creeps across al-Zarqawi's face as the weapon appears to jam. He looks at the rifle, confused, then summons another fighter.
....By contrast, the edited version which the militants posted on the Web showed what happened only after the fighter fixed the weapon _ a fierce-looking al-Zarqawi confidently blasting away with bursts of automatic gunfire.
His fellow fighters and associates appear similarly inept in the newly released footage. One reaches out to grab a just-fired weapon by the barrel, apparently unaware that it would burn his hand. The camera quickly pans to the ground and then away.
"His close associates around him ... do things like grab the hot barrel of the machine gun and burn themselves," Lynch said. "Makes you wonder" about their military skills.
Another clip showed the Jordanian-born al-Zarqawi _ who has derided everything Western _ dressed in a black uniform but wearing New Balance tennis shoes as he walked to a white pickup.