- The Washington Times - Monday, November 24, 2003

From combined dispatches

BAGHDAD — Iraqis began celebrating the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan yesterday, but festivities were subdued by intense U.S. security.

Thousands of Sunni Muslims gathered at Baghdad’s Abu Hanifa mosque, one of Sunni Islam’s holiest shrines, to pray and participate in the Eid al-Fitr, the celebration that marks the end of a month of dawn-to-dusk fasting.

U.S. military helicopters clattered low overhead, keeping watch over the city following a series of small explosions earlier in the day and amid widespread tightened security.

“I don’t think of this as Eid. If the Americans left and there was a new government, with law and order, then every day would be Eid,” said Abdel Wadoud Doukhi as he left the mosque.

A Sunni Muslim religious leader called on U.S. forces and resistance groups to observe a one-week cease-fire to allow the Iraqis to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, media reports said.

Adnan al-Duleimi, the head of Iraq’s Sunni endowments, appealed to the insurgents to cease operations for a week and also called for coalition troops to stop raiding houses and chasing locals. His comments were broadcast by Arab satellite channels.

U.S. forces are on high alert for an intensification of attacks following the end of Ramadan. For most Sunnis, the holy month ended yesterday, but for Shi’ites, who make up 60 percent of Iraq’s population, Ramadan ends a day later this year.

A roadside blast injured a soldier yesterday in Mosul, a city that was considered fairly stable after the fall of Saddam Hussein, but has seen an upsurge in violence in recent weeks..

Two U.S. soldiers were shot to death in Mosul on Sunday before being dragged from their civilian car in broad daylight.

Two weeks ago, 17 soldiers were killed when two Black Hawk helicopters crashed in Mosul, causing the largest loss of American lives in a single incident since the Iraq war began March 20. It remains unclear whether the helicopters were hit by hostile fire.

Insurgents have also mounted sabotage attacks on Iraq’s energy infrastructure. A major oil-export pipeline to Turkey was ablaze yesterday north of the of Baiji and a gas pipeline was hit.

Saboteurs have repeatedly blown up and set fire to the oil line in recent months, in a show of defiance against the U.S.-led coalition and in an effort to disrupt reconstruction.

Iraqi officials are increasingly worried about oil shortages in a country that sits on the world’s second-largest proven crude reserves.

“Iraqis are hoarding oil products,” said Dathar al-Khashab, head of the state-owned Central Refineries Co.

“Domestic production and import flows are fluctuating, and the country has no spare storage capacity.”

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