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October 12, 2005 3:00 AM

Sectarian resentment extends to Iraq's army, undermining security

Swadi Ghilans two sons were dropping their sister off at high school earlier this year when a carload of Sunni Muslim insurgents pulled up and emptied their AK-47s into their bodies. Ghilan is a major in the Iraqi army and a Shiite Muslim, the sect that makes up some 60 percent of Iraqs population. Now, more than ever, the grieving father says he wants to hunt down and kill not only Sunni guerrilla fighters but also Sunnis who give those fighters shelter and support. The Bush administrations exit strategy for Iraq rests on two pillars: an inclusive, democratic political process that includes all major ethnic groups and a well-trained Iraqi national army. But a week spent eating, sleeping and going on patrol with a crack unit of the Iraqi army the 4,500-member 1st Brigade of the 6th Iraqi Division suggests that the strategy is in serious trouble. Instead of rising above the ethnic tension thats tearing their nation apart, the mostly Shiite troops are preparing for, if not already fighting, a civil war against the minority Sunni population.

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