Sunni cleric decries mutilation of men

Desecration of 4 from U.S. called not in keeping with teachings of Islam

April 03, 2004|By Colin McMahon | Colin McMahon,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

BAGHDAD, Iraq - A Sunni cleric in Fallujah condemned yesterday the mutilation of the four Americans killed there two days before. But while Sheik Fawzi Nameq deemed the desecrations un-Islamic, he declined to criticize the ambush that killed the men or suggest that Fallujah relent in its opposition to the U.S.-led occupation.

Though Fallujah was calm yesterday, occupation and Iraqi forces came under fire elsewhere. A roadside bomb killed a U.S. soldier and wounded another in Baghdad, officials said. And the military reported that a U.S. Marine was killed Thursday in an attack near Ramadi, a Sunni city not far from Fallujah in Al Anbar province.

Fallujah residents, a day after a top U.S. general vowed that the Marines would retake control of their city, expressed concern and defiance.

`Think' before acting

"The Americans should think before they act," Lt. Mohammad Tarik, a member of the Iraqi security forces in Fallujah, told Reuters. "If they enter Fallujah and use force, it will only be met with force, and this will happen over and over. ... Everyone is angry with the occupation, and there are many tribes, which means there will be revenge."

Those warnings were also voiced in Baghdad, where Iraqis view Fallujah and Ramadi as tightly knit tribal towns that gave even Saddam Hussein's police state occasional trouble.

"I have an acquaintance from Fallujah," said Hussein al-Musawi, 30, who was lunching with co-workers from a Baghdad auto dealership. "He tells me, `The good thing that we have that you don't in Baghdad is that you do not see any American soldiers on our streets. We do not allow that in Fallujah.'"

Al-Musawi and his friends have their problems with the Americans, they said, mostly regarding the lack of security. But they do not resent the occupation as do residents in Fallujah and other parts of the so-called Sunni Triangle.

The men, two Shiites and a Christian, said they feel no special kinship with the mostly Sunni residents of Fallujah. But they believe U.S. forces have mistreated the Fallujah men through unfair detentions and humiliations. They also pointed to a clash last April in which U.S. forces shot to death at least 13 demonstrators; the Americans said they had come under fire from the protesters.

All of Iraq would take offense if the Marine response in Fallujah led to many civilian casualties, the men said.

"The Americans defeated the regime of Saddam Hussein in 20 days," said Mostafa Abdul Kareem Al-Lami, 24. "But this could destroy the country because Fallujah is all our concern. They should negotiate with the tribal leaders."

Tribal elders

U.S. officials say they have tried for a year to enlist the cooperation of tribal elders in the region. And they say that if Fallujah's leaders produce the guerrillas who killed the men Wednesday and help U.S. officials detain those who mutilated the bodies, the Marines can return to Fallujah with rebuilding and not pacification as their main mission.

"They are coming back," Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said Thursday of the Marines, promising overwhelming force if necessary. "It is up to the people, the small number of people in Fallujah, to determine if they want to do it with a fight or without a fight."

A Fallujah City Council member told the Associated Press that the council issued a statement condemning the mutilations because they violated Muslim teachings. But he did not say whether authorities would pursue those behind the killings.

Nameq, the Sunni cleric, told 600 worshipers yesterday that "Islam does not condone the mutilation of the bodies of the dead." Nor, he said, were the actions very smart.

"Why do you want to bring destruction to our city?" he asked. "Why do you want to bring humiliation to the faithful?"

Iraqi police staffed regular checkpoints in the city, with no sign of an imminent U.S. offensive. But as a safety measure, the Associated Press reported, some residents on the outskirts of Fallujah had left their homes to join relatives deep inside the city.

Members of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council said they were horrified by the joyous orgy of mutilation after the American contractors were killed. But some average Iraqis in Baghdad expressed resentment that so much international attention was being paid to this attack when so many Iraqi civilians and police were dying daily.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

Killed in Iraq

As of yesterday, 599 U.S. service members have died since the beginning of military operations and 2,988 U.S. service members have been wounded. Since May 1, when President Bush declared that major combat operations in Iraq had ended, 461 U.S. soldiers have died.

Latest Identifications

The following four soldiers were killed Wednesday in Habbaniyah, Iraq, when a bomb exploded underneath their armored personnel carrier; assigned to the 1st Engineer Battalion, 1st Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, Fort Riley, Kan.:

Army 1st Lt. Doyle M. Hufstedler, 25, Abilene, Texas.

Army Spc. Sean R. Mitchell, 24, Youngsville, Pa.

Army Spc. Michael G. Karr Jr., 23, San Antonio.

Army Pfc. Cleston C. Raney, 20, Rupert, Idaho.

Army Master Sgt. Richard L. Ferguson, 45, Conway, N.H.; died Tuesday in a vehicle accident in Iraq; assigned to 10th Special Forces Group, Fort Carson, Colo.

- Associated Press

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