- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 22, 2007

BAGHDAD — The Fallujah City Council chairman, a critic of al Qaeda who took the job after his three predecessors were assassinated, was killed yesterday. His death was the latest blow in a violent internal Sunni struggle for control of an insurgent stronghold west of Baghdad.

In the capital, meanwhile, U.S. and Iraqi officials defended plans to build a barrier around a Sunni enclave to protect its inhabitants from surrounding Shi’ite areas, while residents expressed concern it would isolate the community.

Sami Abdul-Amir al-Jumaili was gunned down by attackers in a passing car as he was walking outside his home in central Fallujah, 40 miles west of Baghdad, police said. He was assassinated a month after he agreed to take the dangerous job — the only person willing to do so — with promises to improve services and to work with the Americans to ease traffic-clogging checkpoints in the city with a population estimated at 150,000 to 200,000.

The 65-year-old Sunni sheik was the fourth City Council chairman to be killed in about 14 months as insurgents target fellow Sunnis willing to cooperate with the U.S. and its Iraqi partners. Sheik Abdul-Amir’s predecessor, Abbas Ali Hussein, who was fatally shot on Feb. 2.

Both men were strong critics of al Qaeda in Iraq, which is battling a growing number of Sunni tribes that have turned against it in the vast Anbar province — a center for insurgents since the uprising in Fallujah in 2004 that galvanized the insurgency.

U.S. officials said tribal leaders and even some other insurgents are increasingly repelled by the group’s brutality and religious extremism. The tribes also are competing with al Qaeda for influence and control over diminishing territory against U.S. assaults.

The U.S. military confirmed Sheik Abdul-Amir’s killing, and provincial officials condemned it.

“He was one of the many good people of the province who worked to help the city of Fallujah rebuild and regain life,” the provincial government said. “This murder was a crime against all of the citizens of Iraq. We again strongly condemn this cowardly back-stabbing act.”

At least 38 persons were killed or found dead elsewhere in Iraq, including another top city official, the mayor of Mussayyib, who died in a roadside bombing in the city about 40 miles south of Baghdad.

One American soldier also was killed and two were wounded by a roadside bomb southwest of Baghdad, the military said. A separate roadside bombing, in Diwaniyah about 80 miles south of the capital, killed a Polish soldier late Friday.

The U.S. military has said that the wall in Baghdad was meant to secure the minority Sunni community of Azamiyah, which “has been trapped in a spiral of sectarian violence and retaliation.”

The area, located on the eastern side of the Tigris River, would be completely gated, with entrances and exits controlled by Iraqi soldiers, the military said.

A handout obtained by the Associated Press from a local official in Azamiyah — who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of security concerns but said he was given the handout by the U.S. military — said the wall will be 12 feet high, about 2 feet thick and topped with coils of barbed wire. The military earlier said it would extend three miles.

Some residents and local officials in the neighborhood complained that they had not been consulted in advance about the barrier.

“This will make the whole district a prison. This is collective punishment on the residents of Azamiyah,” said Ahmed al-Dulaimi, a 41-year-old engineer who lives in the area. “They are going to punish all of us because of a few terrorists here and there.”

The military insisted its aim was only to protect the area, and this was one of many measures being undertaken as part of a U.S.-Iraqi security plan to pacify the capital, which began on Feb. 14.

“The intent is not to divide the city along sectarian lines,” said Brig. Gen. John F. Campbell, the deputy commander of American forces in Baghdad.

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