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Radical Islam grows among Iraq's Sunnis

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Hussein al-Khaisi, who runs a small shop selling nuts and dates in Baghdad, is one of scores of Iraqi men whose faith has deepened since the US invasion, and he's now a regular attendant at the small An Nur mosque in Baghdad. "During the US invasion, I saw so much chaos and death that I turned to God,'' he says. "Now there is so much corruption and violence that we need an Islamic government according to sharia. That would stop a lot of the suffering we have now."

Sheikh Ayad Ahmed al-Jubari runs the An Nur mosque and says attendance has grown since the invasion, which he says has helped Iraqis see the truth of Islam. He's also been freer to speak his mind - the regime of Saddam Hussein closely controlled political activity at Iraq's mosques. He says ongoing fighting in the Sunni triangle has drawn more people into his circle.

"The Americans wanted to make Fallujah into a place of terror, but God wanted it to be a place to strengthen the resistance,'' says Sheikh Jubari, who goes on to say that Fallujah is now a place of near-miracles. He says the blood of men "martyred" in the fight against the US smells like perfume and that, somehow, insurgents' weapons seemed to never run out of bullets during the April fighting.

Sheikh Jubari also praises the beheadings of "spies" - like Korean translator Kim Sun Il last month - and says it's appropriate to stage attacks on anyone connected with the US.

Mr. Dulame says it's a mistake to focus exclusively on Sunni groups - pointing out that Shiite religious movements like Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army have used murder and intimidation as well.

But most of the insurgent activity inside Iraq - be it car-bombings of police stations, assassinations of top Iraqi officials, or the gun battle between US soldiers and insurgents early Sunday in the town of Buhriz that left 13 insurgents dead - is now conducted by Sunnis, many radicalized during 17 months of fighting with US forces.

The political angle

While insurgents continue to fight the hot war in the Sunni triangle, Sunni Islamist preachers in Baghdad are seeking to build a political base. At their forefront is Harith al-Dari, a preacher who returned home from the United Arab Emirates after Hussein's ouster. His family has deep roots here, and his grandfather is said to have murdered a British Army officer in 1920, triggering Iraq's first revolution.

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