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DUBAI, Jan 4: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi claimed responsibility on Tuesday for the assassination of Baghdad's governor, which came amid mounting violence in Iraq in the run-up to landmark elections.

The claim was made in a statement and a video posted on the Internet. "Young mujahideen (holy warriors) from the Al-Qaeda Group of Jihad in the Land of Two Rivers assassinated a tyrant from among the Americans' agents, the governor of Baghdad, may God liberate it (Baghdad) and the whole of Iraq," said the statement, whose authenticity could not be confirmed.

"We tell every traitor and everyone who is loyal to the Jews and the Christians that this will be your fate," it said. Ali Radi al-Haidari and one of his bodyguards were killed in a roadside ambush on Tuesday, only a week after the official had highlighted insecurity in the Iraqi capital, Iraq's interior ministry and hospital sources said.

The assassination came amid a spate of deadly attacks in the Iraqi capital in the past two days, as fighters stepped up activity ahead of the January 30 elections. A video posted by Zarqawi's group on the website purported to show Haidari's assassination.

The footage showed a convoy of cars and a man getting close to the vehicles. Blood stains could be seen on a seat of one of the cars. An interior ministry official said in Baghdad that a car of gunmen drove up and opened fire on Haidari's car, killing both him and his bodyguard, in the north-western, predominantly Shia district of Hurriyah on the road leading to the district of Adil.

The group of Zarqawi, considered to be the top Al-Qaeda operative in Iraq, regularly claims responsibility for assassinations and has also taken credit for some of the most violent attacks in the war-torn country. -AFP