The US military has released video footage which it says shows Iraq's most wanted terrorist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, wearing American trainers and fumbling with a machine gun.
The images were aimed at undermining al-Zarqawi's image as al-Qaeda's local strongman and were released to Iraqi television stations as part of the US propaganda war against the man largely blamed for turning Iraq into a new breeding ground for terrorists.
This latest footage is intended to present a dramatically different picture of the terror chief from an earlier video released on Islamist websites last month, which depicted the burly al-Zarqawi pumping bursts of gunfire from his weapon like a seasoned fighter.
But the US said that video had been carefully edited to leave out the part where al-Zarqawi struggles to fire his gun, calling for help from one of his men.
Major General Rick Lynch, a US military spokesman in Iraq, showed the new clips as American forces stepped up the offensive against al-Qaeda and made overtures to other Sunni groups.
Their strategy is to knock down al-Zarqawi's image as it seeks a deal to end the war. In mocking tone, General Lynch gave a commentary to the al-Qaeda leader's handling of the US-made M-249 light machine gun.
As the weapon jammed, al-Zarqawi looks confused and asks for help: "It's supposed to be automatic fire. He's shooting single shots," General Lynch said.
"Something is wrong with his machine gun. He looks down, can't figure out, calls his friend to come unblock the stoppage and get the weapon firing again."
Other militants appear to be unfamiliar with basic weapons training, as one cadre reaches to grab a freshly fired weapon by the barrel that is still burning hot.
"His close associates around him ... do things like grab the hot barrel of the machine gun and burn themselves," General Lynch said. "Makes you wonder about their military skills."
Knocking down al-Zarqawi's credibility is key to US strategy in order to minimise his influence and bring parties to the negotiating table. In the last three years the al-Qaeda chief has helped turn Iraq into a new theatre of terrorism.
Time magazine recently reported how al-Zarqawi is keen to win the upper hand in propaganda wars by promoting himself as a devout religious figure and not just a bloodthirsty killer.
He has sought to depict himself as a man of faith in order to broaden his appeal, driven by belief not bloodlust. Western observers noted this was motivated by an erosion of his authority in Iraq because of clashes between al-Qaeda men who tend to be foreign militants and local insurgents.
The video footage released by the US was discovered during a raid against al Qaeda in a safe house near Baghdad. General Lynch said that al-Zarqawi was focusing operations on the Baghdad area, a religiously mixed city where more than 20 per cent of Iraq's 27 million people live.
Planning documents seized in raids spelled out this strategy: "Zarqawi is zooming in on Baghdad, and we are zooming in on Zarqawi," said the General.