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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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The US left Fallujah's security in the hands of local cops and a special Iraqi military unit the US created in April. But sources in the city say the police and the brigade take their orders from insurgent groups, or at best just stay out of their way.

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The six Shiites were killed about a week after their abduction on June 5, the details of which have been provided to the family by Mohammed Khudier, a 12-year-old cousin of Adnan Feisal Muthar. Mohammed was riding with another cousin, 18-year-old Ahmed Ali Hilal, to start learning the ropes of the family business. Mohammed, later released because of his youth, was the only survivor.

After dropping a load of tents at a camp for the new Iraqi National Guard on the outskirts of the city, their truck was ambushed. They survived and went to the police to find safe passage out of the town. The police took the men to see Obeidi at the Muhammadiyah mosque.

"They were taken in convoy there, with police cars front in back,'' says Adnan Muthar. "Janabi is like the prince of that town now." Over the next week, the family made increasingly frantic appeals to Mr. Obeidi and Sheikh Janabi for the men's release.

Mr. Muthar says Sheikh Janabi told them that the men were being interrogated, and that their release could be obtained for a ransom. But in the end the family was told it could collect their bodies. Two of those killed were Adnan's brother, Hamid Feisal Mutha and his adopted brother Khalid Latief Muthar, who had five young children between them.

Sitting in the family home in Sadr City, Adnan and his morose father, Sheikh Feisal Muthar, urge their visitors to look at pictures that showed the extent of men's torture. They point to were a tattoo that said "Imam Ali" was sliced out of Hamid's arm, saying it was evidence of the sectarian nature of the crime. Shiites revere Ali, a descendant of the prophet Mohammed, while extremist Sunnis attack the practice as polytheistic. "Janabi was responsible for this, and we want justice,'' says Adnan.

Shortly before the US occupation authority was dissolved on June 28, Ambassador Paul Bremer issued arrest warrants for Sheikh Janabi and Obeidi, but no action has been taken by Iraqi authorities. In an interview with the Al Arabiya satellite channel, Sheikh Janabi said he had nothing to do with the murders.

Officials at the Iraqi Ministry of Interior say they're mulling terms of an amnesty for Iraq's insurgents. "We are having a dialogue with some of the important figures in Fallujah,'' says Interior Minister Falah Hassan al-Nagib. "We know there are some splits in the city. We think that most of the trouble is being created by foreigners there."

Nonetheless, other interior ministry officials say the overwhelming majority of fighters in their custody are Iraqis, including four men held for with beheading American Nicholas Berg in May.

US and Iraqi officials say Fallujah has become a haven for the country's tiny cohort of foreign fighters, and it's turning out local Iraqis committed to establishing an Islamic state. While the popularity of such views is limited, having established a beachhead with relative impunity has strengthened their movement.