[Marxism] A united resistance
lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Apr 7 07:04:30 MDT 2004
Boston Globe, 4/7/2004
Sunnis and Shi'ites unite in resistance
By Thanassis Cambanis
BAGHDAD -- Two neighborhoods accustomed to looking at each other over
the barrels of drawn guns yesterday found common ground in their hatred
Aadhamiya, a Sunni Muslim stronghold that has been a hotbed of
resistance in the capital since US forces entered this city a year ago
this week, and Kadhimiya, the heart of Baghdad's middle class and most
politically moderate Shi'ite Muslim community, face each other across
the Tigris River. Over the last year, they have seen sporadic sectarian
violence, with Sunnis and Shi'ites crossing the bridge dividing their
two neighborhoods to kill rival clerics and suspected collaborators.
Yesterday, however, gunmen in both neighborhoods had nothing but kind
words for one another, as Sunni insurgents mounted a surprise attack on
US troops, capitalizing on the strife and disorder created by the
violence in Shi'ite areas of the city under the sway of the radical Army
of the Mahdi.
"I think the Shi'a should have started earlier. We welcome them to the
struggle," said Ali Midhat, 31, a devout Sunni who works in a stationery
store 30 feet from the Aadhamiya police station entrance and watched the
fighting that raged there for six hours after evening prayers.
An urban guerrilla war of resistance -- even if it does not rise to the
level of a mass popular uprising -- is one of the greatest fears of the
US-led occupation authority and the American-appointed Iraqi Governing
Council charged with leading the country to independence. If the
situation does spiral into a broader-based resistance -- one that draws
together Iraqis across the religious and political spectrum -- it would
look a lot like Aadhamiya and Kadhimiya did yesterday.
"The Americans crossed oceans to come to us and spread their Western
culture, molding our religion into their Western model," Midhat said.
"This is why the Muslims rise up in jihad."
On Monday night, insurgents in Aadhamiya staged their boldest and
largest attack against US troops since April 10 of last year, when
fighters of Saddam Hussein's fanatical Fedayeen militia battled
advancing Americans from the Abu Hanifa mosque until 20 of them were
killed, in some of the city center's fiercest fighting.
The predominantly Sunni fighters in Aadhamiya are called mujahedeen, or
freedom fighters, although in conversation some of them betray their
pasts by referring to themselves as Fedayeen.
More than 100 insurgents, armed with rocket-propelled grenades, hand
grenades, and machine guns, surprised US troops in the neighborhood with
a two-pronged attack Monday night.
First, gunmen fired in the air in front of Abu Hanifa mosque, "to draw
them onto the field of battle," said a 22-year-old who gave only his nom
de guerre, Abdullah. Then they attacked a police station about a
"They took the bait," he said.
His left hand is disfigured from a bullet wound that etched a spiderweb
of scars from his wrist to the base of his fingers, and left his pinky
finger hanging limp and useless; he was shot defending the Baghdad
airport from US troops last April, he said.
His right hand was still covered in blood yesterday, half a day after
the fighting ceased. He had dragged the body of a fellow fighter, Ahmed,
and his rocket-propelled grenade launcher, from the street after he was
shot to death by US troops the night before.
"We don't want the Americans and we don't want their freedom," Abdullah
said, standing by a Volkswagen crushed by a tank. "Iraq will be their
The people of Aadhamiya have built a special graveyard for "freedom
fighters" who were killed fighting the Americans. That's where the
fighters Ahmed, 21, and Yasir, 19, were buried yesterday, in the shade
of a fig tree, the mounds of earth covered with an Iraqi flag and marked
with fresh-cut palm fronds. They joined 60 others killed and buried at
Abu Hanifa since last April 10.
"I hope the graveyard fills up," said its caretaker, Mohammed
al-Shalchi. "That means the resistance has not ceased."
On Monday night, US soldiers called in tanks and helicopter gunships to
drive back an estimated 100 fighters who fired rockets at the police
station and peppered it with gunfire for about six hours after
nightfall, Iraqi police sergeant Ali al-Louabi said.
A US sergeant in the First Armored Division said the attacks caught the
Americans by surprise. As his commander searched Aadhamiya's Nouman
Hospital around noon yesterday for wounded fighters who might have
sought treatment there, about 10 hours after the last firefight, the
sergeant described Aadhamiya as "not very friendly." But, he added,
troops only expected new attacks in predominantly Shi'ite neighborhoods.
Kadhimiya, the city's oldest Shi'ite neighborhood, has been generally
calm because the people there have lived in Baghdad for generations and
consider themselves a class apart from the poorer Shi'ites who follow
cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
That calm was shattered late Monday and early yesterday, when three US
soldiers were killed in Kadhimiya in separate ambushes using
Yesterday, more than a hundred members of the Army of the Mahdi crammed
the courtyard of Sadr's headquarters, just down the street from the
gold-domed shrine of al-Khadum. "What are you doing in here? Get out on
the streets! Get out on the rooftops!" a commander screamed after taking
orders from the senior cleric, Sayyed Hazim al-A'aragi, who reported
that American soldiers had entered a nearby Sadr office.Within a
half-hour, Mahdi fighters ordered civilians to flee the streets; two of
them lugged a heavy-caliber machine gun to the street leading to the
local US Army base and fired about 60 rounds. American troops returned
fire selectively, and ultimately eight Iraqi police vehicles screamed
onto the scene. Officers arrested one fighter while the other fled.
"These guys are simply mercenaries," spat Omar Zaidan, 60, who watched
the abortive firefight from a couch in front of his furniture store.
"They are just a bunch of thieves and looters who just want to disturb
peace over here so they can have a chance to steal from the shops."
Nearby, though, another Kadhimiya resident, Mohammed Ali Hussein, 36,
had a different view, as he proudly surveyed the Mahdi fighters and
declared the "clans and the clerics" in control of the streets. Since
Sunday, he said, Shi'ite militiamen and Sunni mujahedeen have, for the
first time, fought together.
"We are united," he said, echoing his Sunni rivals just across the
river. "Saddam Hussein committed injustices against us for 35 years. It
is impossible that we let America do the same. We will kill them with
knives. We will eat them."
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