Iraq Insurgency Larger Than Thought

(AP/Washington Post) The insurgency in Iraq is led by well-armed Sunnis angry about losing power, not foreign fighters, and is far larger than previously thought, American military officials say. The insurgents can call on loyalists to boost their forces to as high as 20,000, a number far larger than the 5,000 previously thought to be at the insurgency's core. The insurgency is believed to include dozens of regional cells, often led by tribal sheiks and inspired by Sunni Muslim imams. A U.S. military official, who has logged thousands of miles driving around Iraq to meet with insurgents or their representatives, said a skillful Iraqi government could co-opt some of the guerrillas and reconcile with the leaders instead of fighting them. Resistance leaders come from Saddam's Baath Party, especially from his Military Bureau, an internal security arm used to purge enemies, and have formed dozens of cells. Most of the insurgents are fighting for a bigger role in a secular society, not a Taliban-like Islamic state, the military official said.

2004-06-09 00:00:00

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