BAGHDAD, Iraq - A man claiming to be Saddam Hussein said in a tape aired on the Arab television station Al-Jazeera on Friday that he is in Iraq directing attacks on American forces and he urged Iraqis to help the resistance against the U.S.-led occupation.
"Oh brothers and sisters, I relay to you good news: Jihad (holy war) cells and brigades have been formed," the speaker on the audiotape said, addressing the Iraqi people.
The CIA is reviewing the tape, but has not verified that it was the ousted Iraqi leader, a U.S. intelligence official said. An analysis could take several days.
There was no immediate way to verify the tape's authenticity. Reporters and others who have heard Saddam speak many times before said the voice sounded like Saddam. The voice contained characteristics similar to Saddam's style of speech, particularly his typically slow and drawn out pronunciation. He also maintained his usual defiant, yet calm, demeanor.
With U.S. forces targeted daily by ambushes and sniper attacks in and around Baghdad, the United States has put a $25 million bounty on Saddam's head - as well as a $15 million reward for each of his sons, Odai and Qusai. American officials say the mystery over Saddam's whereabouts fuels anti-U.S. attacks by his loyalists - but insist the resistance is not centrally organized.
In the audiotape, the speaker gives the date of taping as June 14 and says: "People have been asking why they haven't heard the voice of Saddam Hussein. We face a lot of trouble in getting our voice to you even though we have been trying."
The speaker defends the quick fall of Saddam's regime during the U.S.-led invasion in March and April, saying it was a necessary retreat, and urges Iraqis to help insurgents.
"No to surrender and no to cooperation" with the Americans, he said. "I call upon you to protect these heroic fighters and not give the invaders any information about them or their whereabouts during their operations.
"There is resistance and I know you are hearing about this. Not a day passes without them (suffering) losses in our great land thanks to our great mujahedeen. The coming days will, God willing, be days of hardship and trouble for the infidel invaders," the speaker said.
The last reported sighting of Saddam was on April 9, a day before the capital fell, in northeast Baghdad. He was the target of at least two major U.S. air strikes, but there was never any proof either was successful.
The speaker on the tape, purporting to be Saddam, said that he is still in Iraq "among my people" along with a small group of his "companions." He said he had been forced to "sacrifice" the government as U.S. troops moved in.
"We fulfilled our obligations to you and sacrificed what we had to, except our values, which are based on our deep faith and honor. We did not stab our people or our nation in the back," he said.
"We refused to hold onto power if that meant submitting to the American threats."
He also dismissed U.S. claims that Iraq had biological, chemical and possibly nuclear weapons programs and was prepared to use them - a principal justification for the war.
"They aim to destroy Iraq, and what they called the weapons of mass destruction was nothing but a cover for their plans," said the man claiming to be Saddam. "I ask the invaders, where are these weapons of mass destruction?"
Al-Jazeera's chief editor Ibrahim Hilal, contacted in Doha, Qatar, said the tape was delivered to Al-Jazeera via telephone on Friday.
"Someone called us and played back the tape for us and we recorded it. It ran for over 20 minutes, but only 10 minutes are newsworthy. We don't know the source, or where the call came from. We have no reason to doubt its authenticity," he said.
The tape was the first purported to be from Saddam since one received May 5 by a reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald, who received a 14-minute audiotape from two men in Baghdad. In that tape, the voice also claimed to be speaking from Iraq and called on citizens to oust American occupiers.
Reviews of such tapes by the American intelligence community typically include a technical analysis aimed at matching the voice to known recordings of Saddam. That process that can take days.
Experts on Saddam also listen for specific references in the language that would suggest when the message was recorded.
At the height of the war, some U.S. intelligence analysts concluded that many of Saddam's messages were prerecorded before the fighting.