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Iraqis Shocked by Beheading, Despair Over Violence

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Iraqis Shocked by Beheading, Despair Over Violence

1 hour, 45 minutes ago Add Top Stories - Reuters to My Yahoo!


By Ghaith Abdul-Ahad

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Most Baghdad residents on Wednesday condemned al Qaeda's beheading of a U.S. civilian in Iraq (news - web sites), but many said his death was just the latest atrocity in a cycle of violence that is driving them to despair.

A Web site video showed a masked man cutting off the head of Nick Berg, a 26-year-old civilian, and said al Qaeda's leader in Iraq had personally carried out the killing in revenge for abuses against Iraqi prisoners.

Berg went missing last month when dozens of foreigners were seized by guerrillas after Marines launched a crackdown in the city of Falluja. The Marine operation followed the killing and grisly mutilation of four U.S. security guards in the city.

"The Americans killed hundreds in Falluja in retaliation for the mutilation of the four Americans and now those people are killing an American in retaliation for the torture of prisoners," said Arkan Mohammad, a cleric at Baghdad University.

"Someone has to do something to stop the cycle of violence from going on and on."

Even in the Baghdad Sunni Muslim stronghold of Adhamiya, where there is fierce opposition to the occupation, many residents were appalled by the decapitation of Berg.

"We denounce this act. No-one can accept the killing of another human being in this horrible way," said Yassir Saleh, a 30-year-old barber. But he too pointed to a tide of violence that has swept the country since the fall of Saddam Hussein (news - web sites).

"Sometimes I really can't understand the logic of what is happening, all the violence that I could have never imagined would take place in my country," he said.

Many Iraqis say they oppose the U.S.-led occupation but also despise insurgents whose suicide attacks, mortar strikes and bomb blasts have killed far more Iraqis than Americans.

Issa al-Khalidi, a 65-year-old pensioner sitting in one of the oldest coffeehouses in Adhamiya, also condemned the killing but looked around nervously as he did.

"It's a brutal, inhuman act. As Muslims our religion prohibits us from committing such acts," he said.

"People with their own interpretations of Islam are coming to this country and killing left and right, and the Americans are just providing them with the pretext to do so."

But some of the city's poorer residents said they supported the killing, arguing it was acceptable retribution for the abuses the U.S. military had committed in Iraq.

"This is the price they have to pay for what they have done," said 33-year-old Omar Khateb, a labourer.

"It was done according to Islamic Sharia, and the Americans should know that there is a price they will pay for the atrocities they commit."

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