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Saudi Group Backs Insurgents

From Associated Press

As American troops prepared Saturday for a major assault on the insurgent hotbed of Fallouja, a group of prominent Saudi religious scholars urged Iraqis to support militants fighting U.S.-led forces.

The 26 Saudi scholars and preachers said in an open letter to the Iraqi people that their appeal was prompted by “the extraordinary situation through which the Iraqis are passing which calls for unity and exchange of views.”

The letter was posted on the Internet.

“At no time in history has a whole people been violated ... by propaganda that’s been proved false,” Awad Qarni, one of the scholars, told Al Arabiya television.

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“The U.S. forces are still destroying towns on the heads of their people and killing women and children. What’s going on in Iraq is a result of the big crime of America’s occupation of Iraq.”

In their letter, the scholars stressed that armed attacks by Iraqi groups on U.S. troops and their allies in Iraq represent “legitimate” resistance.

The scholars directed their appeal to Iraqis only and stayed away from issuing a general, Muslim-wide call for holy war. They also identified the military as the target.

Saudi officials did not comment on the statement.

Saudi Arabia has sealed off its long border with Iraq and bars people from crossing into that country. Its most senior clerics issued a statement last year saying the call for jihad -- or holy war -- should only come from the ruler and should not be based on edicts issued by individual clerics.

In their letter Saturday, the 26 clerics issued a fatwa, or religious edict, prohibiting Iraqis from offering any support for military operations carried out by U.S. forces against insurgent strongholds.

“Fighting the occupiers is a duty for all those who are able,” the letter said.

“It is a jihad to push back the assailants. Resistance is a legitimate right. A Muslim must not inflict harm on any resistance man or inform on them. Instead, they should be supported and protected.”

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Besides Qarni, those signing the letter included Safar Hawali, Nasser Omar, Salman Awdah and Sharif Hatem Aouni.

Hawali, who was jailed in the 1990s for five years without trial because he criticized U.S. involvement in the 1991 Persian Gulf War against Iraq, once was close to Saudi-born Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. He opposed the presence of U.S. troops in the kingdom.


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