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Militant groups open shop in Iraq

By
BETH POTTER

BAGHDAD, May 11 (UPI) -- New graffiti on banners hanging over walls in Iraq's Karadi district say "No party but Hezbollah" and "Yes, yes to Islam."

It's part of an apparent fundamentalist fervor sweeping the country. A two-story office building near the Hezbollah banner is guarded by a man who says it will open soon. Nearby is a banner for the Supreme Council of Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Posters of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, a Shiite cleric who returned to Iraq after more than 20 years in exile, are plastered on various walls and streetlight posts around the city. Al-Hakim's arrival in Iraq brought thousands of faithful to pay homage to him. He's expected to speak in Najaf Monday.

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In a nearby part of town, an Islamic cultural center is closed, but people are standing outside another Islamic party office, waiting for the workers to return.

"People are saying these groups are forming here," says Sadoun al-Dulaimi, a moderate Iraqi tribal leader who serves as an adviser to Americans working in the Pentagon-led Office for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance. "Shiite and Sunni divisions are part of the past. Islamic movements are not suitable for this environment."

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Iraq's religious population is about 60 percent Shiite Muslims -- people who were repressed under Saddam Hussein's regime.

Such groups will resist any non-Islamic government al-Dulimi said, which is troubling to those in the country who are more moderate. U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said Iraqis will not be allowed to form an Islamic government.

Al-Dawa, another fundamentalist group that is affiliated with Hezbollah, is opening 27 offices around Iraq this week, al-Dulimi said.

More worrying, but impossible to verify, al Dulimi said the new groups have created their own weapons storehouses in Nasiriyah and Basra.

"This will lead to civil war," al Dulimi said. "I advised (Pentagon-appointed leader) Jay Garner to watch these groups. I said, 'You're going to have problems soon.'"

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