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Iraqi rebels dividing, losing support

Fallujah is now emerging as a symbol of the splintering Iraqi resistance. The mutilation of six Shiites widens the divide.

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In April, with anger swelling at the US occupation and a Marine-led assault on the Sunni city of Fallujah,thousands of Shiites provided assistance to their Iraqi brothers in the city.

Adnan Feisal Muthar filled up his truck with food and drove it to Fallujah to help residents rendered homeless by US bombing. His uncle and two of his sons donated blood for the wounded. "We wanted to help the people there,'' says Mr. Muthar. "They were Iraqis and they were suffering."

But the city west of Baghdad is no longer a sympathetic rallying place for a unified Iraqi resistance. It is now seen as run by intolerant and exclusivist Sunni imams who are seeking to turn it into a haven for Al Qaeda ideologues. Fallujah is emerging as a symbol of the disparate nature of the overall insurgency inside Iraq. Many Shiites, like the Muthars, have stopped supporting it.

Since two of Muthar's brothers and four of his cousins - all members in a family trucking cooperative - were tortured and murdered in the resistance stronghold three weeks ago, he's changed his mind about how the US handled Fallujah.

"They should have done whatever it took to take that place over,'' Muthar says. "It's been left in the hands of people who call themselves Muslims but they're not. They're simply inhuman."

The killingsand mutilations of the six truckers (some could only be identified by family members from old scars) have shaken many Iraqis. While some Iraqis had mixed feelings about the similar killing and mutilation of four US security contractors, in April, these latest murders have inflamed the Shiite community here, and alienated others.

"It makes me very uncomfortable to say this, but if the American's weren't around [to attack] we would be fighting among ourselves,'' says a young native of Fallujah who participated in attacks against US forces last year but has since quit the resistance, saying he's been disillusioned by a disregard for civilians shown by some insurgents.

He was particularly disturbed by the mutilation of the Shiite truck drivers. "We can't be satisfied with this new group - they execute alleged spies in the streets without any evidence at all, sometimes it's just payback for a personal dispute. Those Shia were innocent men."

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