Monday, July 04, 2005

Telegraph | News | US delight as Iraqi rebels turn their guns on al-Qa'eda

Telegraph | News | US delight as Iraqi rebels turn their guns on al-Qa'eda

American troops on the Syrian border are enjoying a battle they have long waited to see - a clash between foreign al-Qa’eda fighters and Iraqi insurgents.

Tribal leaders in Husaybah are attacking followers of Abu Musab Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born terrorist who established the town as an entry point for al-Qa’eda jihadists being smuggled into the country.

The reason, the US military believes, is frustration at the heavy-handed approach of the foreigners, who have kidnapped and assassinated local leaders and imposed a strict Islamic code.

Fighting, which could be clearly heard at night over the weekend, first broke out in May when as many as 50 mortar rounds were fired across the city. But, to the surprise of the American garrison, this time it was not the target.

If a shell landed near the US base, “they’d adjust their fire and not shoot at us”, Lt Col Tim Mundy said. “They shot at each other.”

The trigger was the assassination of a tribal sheikh, from the Sulaiman tribe, ordered by Zarqawi for inviting senior US marines for lunch. American troops gained an insight into the measures the jihadists had imposed during recent house-to-house searches in nearby towns and villages.

Shops selling music and satellite dishes had been closed. Women were ordered to wear all-enveloping clothing and men forbidden from wearing western clothes.

Anyone considered to be aiding coalition forces was being killed or kidnapped. That included those with links to the government - seen as a US puppet - such as water or electricity officials. As a result local services had collapsed.

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