Skip to comments.Sunni And Shia Guerrillas Unite Against US
Posted on 04/11/2004 5:01:42 PM PDT by blam
Sunni and Shia guerrillas unite against US
By David Blair in Baghdad
Leaflets handed out on the streets of Baghdad yesterday suggested growing co-operation between Sunni and Shia guerrillas amid signs that Iraqis are beginning to unite against a common American foe.
The handouts carried a "joint statement" by the Mahdi militia, loyal to the radical Shia cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr, and the "Army of Fallujah", fighting US forces in the besieged Sunni city 30 miles west of Baghdad. They were distributed in the capital's al-Ala'am suburb and declared six districts of Baghdad a "military area". People living locally were warned not to approach US forces or drive their cars.
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The road linking the capital with the holy city of Najaf, where Sadr is believed to be hiding, runs through this zone. The statement gave warning that mujahideen guerrillas would lay ambushes for the "despicable occupying forces" on this highway.
"We want our patient people to stay away from the occupying forces and not to drive civilian cars on this road for their safety," said the leaflet. "God will grant victory to those who resist the occupation."
Guerrillas operating in the area where the handouts were distributed are largely Sunni. They appear to be preparing to help Sadr by obstructing the route that US forces would take in an attack on his Najaf stronghold.
About 20 Iraqis who received the leaflets as they queued at a bakery murmured support for the gunmen. "God help them," said one man. "The Americans deserve it. We gained nothing from them."
General Ricardo Sanchez, commander of the US-led coalition forces in Iraq, said co-operation between Shia and Sunni guerrillas was taking place at a "tactical level".
"Calls for unity between Shia forces and Sunni forces are not unexpected," he said. "It's clearly an attempt to take advantage of the situation."
A shaky truce was maintained in Fallujah yesterday, and ceasefire talks were due to continue today.
US forces launched a crackdown in the city a week ago in response to the murder and mutilation of four Americans there. More than 600 Iraqis have been killed in local fighting in recent days, according to hospitals. Iraqi shock at the human toll transcends sectarian divisions, and Shi'ites have organised aid convoys for the Sunni city.
Fifteen lorries carrying food entered Fallujah during yesterday's informal ceasefire. The convoy was sent from Sadr City, the mainly Shia slum in east Baghdad.
In the twin holy cities of Karbala and Najaf, tens of thousands of pilgrims took part in the Shia festival of Arba'een, which passed off peacefully. A vast crowd gathered around the golden dome of the Imam Hussein shrine, marking the spot where the Prophet Mohammed's grandson was murdered in AD 680.
Last month, suicide bombers struck at this holy site in Karbala as pilgrims gathered for an earlier Shia festival, killing 171 people. This atrocity sparked fears of a civil war between Iraq's Shia majority and Sunni minority.
Instead, the American offensive and the revolt declared by Sadr have transformed the situation.
The fighting in Fallujah has already led guerrillas in western Baghdad to step up their attacks on US forces. Many of the people in this area are from the same clans as Fallujah's 250,000 inhabitants.
Numerous ambushes have taken place on the highway running west from Baghdad, which serves as the main supply route for American forces in Fallujah.
The city was once the epicentre of the so-called Sunni Triangle, where attacks on US forces were most intense. Now this war zone has embraced the Shi'ites and expanded across central and southern Iraq.
After hearing comments around the Easter dinner table today, I can safely say that the ragheads don't deserve US!