Sunnis fighting al-Qa'eda insurgents in Western Iraq

Tuesday, July 5, 2005

Sunnis have turned their weapons on al Qa'eda fighters in a town in western Iraq.

The local Sunni leaders in Husaybeh are fighting the followers of a Jordanian born terrorist, Abu Musab Zarqawi, who uses the town as a point to smuggle foreign fighters into the country.

Fighting first broke out in May, when a local tribal sheik was murdered on the orders of Zarqawi, and fighting broke out using small arms and mortars. The Shiek had invited US Marines to lunch as a sign of goodwill.

The foreigners have also enforced a strict Islamic code forbidding the wearing of Western clothing, and shops selling music and satellite dishes have been closed.

Anyone suspected of helping Coalition troops is kidnapped or killed - even those seen to be helping the Iraqi government, such as officials responsible for water and electricity supplies. As a result, local services have collapsed.

"We thought they were patriotic. Now we discovered that they are sick and crazy. They interfered in everything, even how we raise our children. They turned the city into hell, and we cannot live in it anymore," said Arkan Salim, 56, who fled the town with his wife and four children.

The US military in the town has not been targeted - in fact the insurgents have taken care to avoid firing mortar rounds too close to the US base, less they become involved in the fighting. Local tribes have secretly tipped off the US military so they can bomb the terrorists.

Iraqis said that the fighting is a sign of the fracturing in support foreign fighters in Iraq are experiencing. They have been losing public support amongst Sunni communities, the Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari said, after attempts to include Sunnis in the political process.